the man of my dreams

Curtis Sittenfeld’s The Man of My Dreams shares two commonalities with her other two novels: all three revolve around a female protagonist who is an adolescent at the start of the book, and all three follow the girl over the course of a number of years.  But perhaps because this particular novel is written in third person rather than first (for the most part), or perhaps because of the protagonist herself, The Man of My Dreams failed to strike the same note for me as Sittenfeld’s other novels.

Both Prep (written before TMoMD) and  American Wife (written after) pulled me into their stories quickly and kept me engaged with the characters.  Sittenfeld’s strengths in these novels is her ability to show her character’s growth and self-discovery as they find their places within their respective worlds — even when they’re not entire sure what to think of those worlds. 

When we meet Hannah as a fourteen-year-old, coping with her parents’ separation, the potential for that type of journey in TMoMD is there.  But Hannah seems to have little interest in self-discovery.  Rather, the book follows as she moves from situation to situation (most of which involve men) with minimal growth or reflection.  The result is a lackluster, though not uninteresting, portrayal of her journey into adulthood.  When the self-discovery does finally seem to come, at the end of the book, the shift in both tone and style (the final chapter is written in first person, as a letter) seem abrupt and somewhat awkward. 

 Sittenfeld’s is a solid writer, certainly, and that shows in this book as in her others.  But her ability to carefully craft nuanced and engaging characters seems to have temporarily escaped her.  Overall, The Man of My Dreams is not unenjoyable — it’s simply not noteworthy, either, which is what I’ve come to expect from her. 

WHO: Curtis Sittenfeld
WHAT: The Man of My Dreams
WHERE: Received as gift
WHEN: February 2010
WHY: Enjoyed writer’s other work
HOW: Hard copy

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~ by Molly on March 5, 2010.

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