Instead, Hustvedt’s book is driven by an almost crystalline clarity, which could also be seen as its main weakness. To some readers it may seem emotionally remote, an effect that derives from the fact that the novel depicts a mind thinking. Mia’s mind is working its way through various sets of knowledge; sets of things she knows and cares about
: poems, lists of writers, stray memories. In the process of making sense of a radically changed emotional environment, even other people and events have to fulfill the role of objects about to be cataloged. The overall effect is mesmerizing, and The Summer without Men
, while not Hustvedt’s best, is a powerful achievement. One hopes that she’s eventually accorded the place in the canon of major contemporary American novelists she deserves.