The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
By the start of the novel, Mia has recovered enough to leave hospital and goes to live in a rented cottage in rural Minneapolis close to her elderly mother's retirement home. Her mother is a widow, and her friends are known as the Swans - all women - the pupils that turn up to Mia's poetry class are all pubescent girls, and her next door neighbour is a woman with a four year old girl and baby (and largely absent husband) the summer of Mia's recovery is an all feminine one.
The book chronicles Mia's return to strength, with a variety of intelligent and astute observations about the mind, consciousness ('the hard problem'), mental illness, male and female relationships, marriage, sexuality and ageing. In fact, the whole of female life is here: the effect of motherhood (there is a particularly touching scene when she helps with the baby next door) - in both the young and the old; childhood and the painfulness of finding a place to fit; middle-age and the acceptance of aging and death.
An unusual and attractive feature of the book is the way Mia addresses the reader. She observes that most readers of novels written by women tend to be women, and by the end of the book she addresses that reader directly, 'You, friend out there...' she says, and by that time I felt I certainly was. I shall certainly be reading more of Siri Hustvedt. I have a feeling she could become another favourite author.
Thanks to Sceptre for sending me a copy of this book.