Published in 2003, Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved lies somewhere between a love story and a thriller. It follows the life of art historian Leo Hertzberg and his relationship with artist Bill Weschler and his wife Violet. What begins as the story of Leo and Bill builds into the story of both of their families and the connections between them, eventually settling on the story of Bill’s son Mark. It is a novel about family, art, love and grief – and about something else, something more sinister, something that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I found novel both engaging and interesting. It is undoubted a gripping read, especially after Part One, and while reading I was increasingly drawn in and fascinated by these two families living in such close proximity, as well as by Bill’s art. Yet what is odd about What I Loved is that it doesn’t seem to have any sort of consistent plot. Rather than one story woven through the novel, it is made instead up of multiple shorter plots stitched together. They are stitched together well, certainly, but I still felt like I was reading a completely different novel in Part Three to the novel I had started in Part One. The novel seemed to have changed tone, focus, meaning, and even genre by the end. Now, I do rather like books that blend and merge genres, but I find it more effective when they do so from the start, rather than merely shifting half way through.