The Summer without Men, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


After Mia Fredricksen's husband of thirty years asks for a pause - so he can indulge his infatuation with a young French colleague - she cracks up (briefly), rages (deeply), then decamps to her prairie childhood home. There, gradually, she is drawn into the lives of those around her: her mother's circle of feisty widows; the young woman next door; and the diabolical teenage girls in her poetry class.

By the end of the summer without men, Mia knows what's worth fighting for - and on whose terms.

Provocative, mordant, and fiercely intelligent, this is a gloriously vivacious tragi-comedy about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old war between the sexes.




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Review by

This is a little gem of a novel, Mia Fredriksen's husband, Boris, asks for a pause in their marriage so he can explore another relationship with young French colleague. Suffering a psychotic break causes Mia to take her own pause on life, on release from hospital she returns to her hometown, spending time with her mother and her friends from her retirement home, the ' Five Swans'. What follows is an elegant, moving and sometimes funny meditation on life as a woman, as Mia observes the various women around her, from the young girls in her poetry class, through her married next door neighbour to the Swans, and how their lives are defined and changed by their relationships with each other and with men. Mia is a fabulous character. We know she has suffered from the pause in her thirty year marriage, but she is never overly self-indulgent or maudlin. Mia is engaged with everything around her and, as Dr S. tells her, 'your will to live is bursting out all over.' I also really liked the mixing of narrative styles, the reporting of events, the diary of Mia's sexual past, the letters from her daughter, husband and 'Nobody' and the few times Mia directly addresses the reader, reminding us that Mia has been shattered, is piecing herself together, realising that 'tolerating cracks is part of being alive.'

Review by

This is the fourth Siri Hustvedt novel I have read, and I can now say that she is consistently readable, thought-provoking and full of ideas. This one at first glance appears to have very little plot, but is packed with sharp and humourous observations on life, love and people's motivations, mixed with a fair bit of philosophy and psychology. It tells the tale of a woman whose husband decides to take a "pause" in their marriage to pursue an affair, while she retreats to her childhood hometown in the mid-West to reflect, recover, and find friendship with a number of women of different ages and backgrounds.