natpfeature

On Our Bookshelves:
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

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NOVEL: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

AUTHOR: Adelle Waldman

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2013

REVIEW:

I was discussing this comedy of manners with two of my friends over dinner and drinks the other night, and we all agreed that Nate Piven (the up-and-coming young writer referred to in the title) was an incredibly psychologically realistic character. And if you’ve ever been a single woman in New York City, you’ve probably met him. You may have even dated him.

It’s cleverly done, this portrait of the artist as a young cad. He’s confused, he’s lazy, he means well, and he’s simply not honest with the women he gets involved with about his intentions or his emotions; then again, he’s not honest with himself, either. He feels a twinge of guilt now and then, and possibly a bit of cognitive dissonance, as he attempts to reconcile his self image as a good guy with his actual behavior and his status anxiety. He’s not a monster. He’s a decent friend, he cares about social justice, and he’s smart and funny and polite. But he’s never going to be the happily ever after for the “nice and smart, or smart and nice” Hannah, whose heart he carelessly breaks.

It’s a clever novel, and rather funny. Nate’s friend Aurit makes a good defense of her fellow single women (and, perhaps, of the author of the novel for treating its subject with some seriousness) when she gives him a stern lecture while eating arugula pizza at a hip Brooklyn restaurant: “I just hate the way so many men treat ‘dating’ as if it’s a frivolous subject… Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You’re sizing up people to see if they’re worth your time and attention, and they’re doing the same to you. It’s meritocracy applied to personal life, but there’s no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact—to keep from becoming old and callous—and we hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, these prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and explicitly anatomized again and again. But who cares, right? It’s just girl stuff.”

That sums it up nicely. It’s a generous story…there are no villains here, just human beings stumbling along, and often getting it wrong. It’s worth reading, and smiling with recognition (and some sympathy) at Nate, and Aurit, and Hannah, and all the rest of them.

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 Whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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ALSO ON OUR BOOKSHELVES:

A Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Heads In Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

Up At The Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Macmillan

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com