The Summer Without Men

By Siri Hustvedt
(Picador USA, Paperback, 9780312570606, 182pp.)

Publication Date: April 26, 2011

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"And who among us would deny Jane Austen her happy endings or insist that Cary Grant and Irene Dunne should get back together at the end of The Awful Truth? There are tragedies and there are comedies, aren't there? And they are often more the same than different, rather like men and women, if you ask me. A comedy depends on stopping the story at exactly the right moment." Mia Fredrickson, the wry, vituperative, tragic comic, poet narrator of The Summer Without Men, has been forced to reexamine her own life. One day, out of the blue, after thirty years of marriage, Mia’s husband, a renowned neuroscientist, asks her for a “pause.” This abrupt request sends her reeling and lands her in a psychiatric ward. The June following Mia’s release from the hospital, she returns to the prairie town of her childhood, where her mother lives in an old people’s home. Alone in a rented house, she rages and fumes and bemoans her sorry fate. Slowly, however, she is drawn into the lives of those around her—her mother and her close friends,“the Five Swans,” and her young neighbor with two small children and a loud angry husband—and the adolescent girls in her poetry workshop whose scheming and petty cruelty carry a threat all their own.

From the internationally bestselling author of What I Loved comes a provocative, witty, and revelatory novel about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old question of sameness and difference between the sexes.

About the Author
Siri Hustvedt was born in 1955 in Northfield, Minnesota. She has a Ph.D. from Columbia University in English literature and is the internationally acclaimed author of five novels, "The Sorrows of an American", "What I Loved", "The Enchantment of Lily Dahl", "The Blindfold", and "The Summer Without Men", as well as a growing body of nonfiction, including "Living, Thinking, Looking", "A Plea for Eros", " "and "Mysteries of the Rectangle", " "and an interdisciplinary investigation of the body and mind in "The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. "She has given lectures on artists and theories of art at the Prado, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In 2011, she delivered the thirty-ninth annual Freud Lecture in Vienna. She lives in Brooklyn.

Conversation Starters from


  1. The novel opens with a quote from a movie, The Awful Truth, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunn, in which the couple banter about things being the same and different in their marriage. This theme is repeated throughout the novel. Mia also quotes Plato, Plutarch, Montaigne, and others on the philosophical problem of sameness and difference. Discuss the significance of this idea to the novel as a whole. 

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