Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The Man Of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

Publisher: Random House Inc
Pub. Date: April 2007
Pages: 304
Format: paperback
Source: purchased

Sittenfeld's poignant if generic follow-up to her bestselling debut, Prep, similarly tracks a young woman's coming-of-age, but rather than navigating an elite school's nasty and brutish social system, this time the narrator contends with a dysfunctional family and her own yearnings for love. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Gavener is abruptly shipped off from Philadelphia to live with her aunt in Pittsburgh when her mercurial, vindictive father breaks up his marriage and family, which includes Hannah's older sister, Allison, and their browbeaten mother. Sweet but insecure and passive, Hannah had "been raised... not to be accommodated but to accommodate," an upbringing that hobbles all her subsequent relationships. The novel follows Hannah through her teens and late 20s (from 1991 to 2005), as she searches for romantic fulfillment, navigates friendships (e.g., with her larger-than-life cousin Fig) and alternately tries to reconcile with her father and distance herself from him. But the most influential connection Hannah makes is with her psychiatrist, Dr. Lewin, whom she begins seeing her freshman year at Tufts. Although the novel aspires to be taken seriously and Hannah is a sympathetic protagonist, she remains a textbook case of a young woman who wants "a man who will deny her. A man of her own who isn't hers."

When I asked my cousin why she got me this book, she said it was because it looked and sounded very cute. That was I believed too on looking at the cover and skimming through the synopsis. However, The Man Of My Dreams was not what it seemed. Contrast to its light-hearted appearance, it was deep, heartbreaking and realistic (since it was so realistic, I have to warn you about somewhat explicit scenes).

The story was split into three parts: when Hannah was 14, during her college life and her late 20s years. There were cut between them so you didn't get to learn Hannah's life step by step. Instead, you had to collect the pieces and put them together to have a better view. Also, the effect of the cut was that it kept the readers curious, as for me things were so dreamily that I had to go on reading till I figured out everything. Like one second Hannah was so nervous about her first kiss at college, then a second later she had already been in a relationship with her boss.

I also loved the character development in this book. Hannah was a very complicated one. She went from being naive and lonely to doubtful about life, desperate about love and finally, started to learn to be happy. Hannah could have been like any other teenager, but too bad her father's treatment made a big impact on her, especially after her parents' divorce. She didn't think herself as pretty anymore, she felt kind of distant, and had a habit to imagining the future - which always turned out to be dull and calm. She didn't like to be protected, she accepted risky relationship even if it hurt her, partly because she was too afraid to claim happiness. What was the worst that she always saw life in the most miserable way. On reading the book I sometimes found Hannah annoying for she always brought out the bad in stuff, and she was such a coward not to take the chance to get close to Henry - the man of her dreams and make him hers. Then again, I felt bad for her. Hannah was never confident enough to make a move, like she didn't think she deserved happiness at all. Sometimes she did try, but it was too late.

The book's ending was so sad. Hannah had yet to find her dream guy and was not even sure when she would fall in love again. But she found happiness and meaning of life. That was what mattered.

The book is only 304 page long but you'll feel like it lasts a life time, a life time with so much ups and downs, joys and hurts : )

Rating: 4/5


KD said...

Aww this one sounds really cute!

Bookworm said...

I love the simple, adorable cover!

The Not So Closet Geeks said...

Prep felt like a lifetime, too, if that makes sense.