Review of The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt

This was an easy-to-read novel with a dreamy atmosphere, a frustrating main character and bizarre side characters. I was not impressed by any aspect of the book, though certain ideas contained a glimmer of intrigue and the overall atmosphere was pleasing.

The problem in my opinion was a lack of plot. If you’re going to disregard plot or have an illogical one, as this book does, you should sustain the reader’s interest with compelling characters and breathtaking prose. This book does neither. Instead it maintains an intimate association and psychological suggestion, opting for ambiguity where definition might have allowed me to care about Lily Dahl. Motivations are lacking, or at least puzzling. If one regards it with Lynchian dream-logic, one can enjoy the skewed actions and overblown, contrived scenario somewhat.

A young waitress is our M. C. She is in the process of discovering herself through a couple of tall dark and handsomes. One of them is a painter. He lives across the way and she gives him something to look at through his window. We get some crosstalk between ordinary Joes at the diner, the weird and random inclusion of a couple of gross, stinking, low-class men (antitheses to her boyfriends) the peculiar presence of a trashy woman, who makes a mess of everything, and an elderly neighbor who’s writing a mysterious endless memoir. Then, the persistence of Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s play, which Mabel takes part in – There it is! A clue that dream-logic rules this scenario. There are some dreams within a dream, plenty of situations that don’t line up when discussed by people from their personal perspective and interpretation. Perhaps that is the key to unlocking this book. The novel plays with clever concepts, but never achieves greatness, if you ask me.

I am trying my best to ignore the fact that she married Paul Auster. As long as she doesn’t go full Auster in the next book, I’m on board to reader more of her acclaimed novels.

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