What I Loved A Novel

Siri Hustvedt




Trade Paperback

384 Pages



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A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
Nominated for the Prix Étranger Femina

What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work and tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler, and the two men embark on a lifelong friendship.

Leo's story, which spans twenty-five years, follows the evolution of the growing involvement between his family and Bill's—an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men, their wives, Erica and Violet, and their children, Matthew and Mark. The families live in the same building in New York, share a house in Vermont during the summer, keep up a lively exchange of thoughts and ideas, and find themselves permanently altered by one another. Over the years, they not only enjoy love but endure loss—in one case, sudden, incapacitating loss; in another a different kind, one that is hidden and slow growing, and which insidiously erodes the fabric of their lives.

Intimate in tone, seductive in its complexity, the novel moves seamlessly from inner worlds to outer worlds, from the deeply private to the public, from physical infirmity to cultural illness. Part family novel, part psychological thriller, What I Loved is an exploration of love, loss, and betrayal—and a man's attempt to make sense of the world and go on living.


Praise for What I Loved

"Superb . . . What I Loved is a rare thing, a page-turner written at full intellectual stretch, serious but witty, large-minded and morally engaged."—The New York Times Book Review

"What I Loved is Siri Hustvedt's most ambitious, most rewarding novel. It mesmerizes, rouses, disturbs. Hustvedt is that rare artist, a writer of high intelligence, profound sensuality and a less easily definable capacity for which the only word I can find is wisdom."—Salman Rushdie

"A remarkable achievement of Siri Hustvedt's prose, with its attention to nuance and intricacy, is its demonstration that friendship is a powerful form of intelligence. The book's final pages acknowledge nearly overwhelming loss, but because the reader understands so much, their sadness feels almost like joy."—The Washington Post

"Delivers rare insight into the artist's need to make things, the critic's drive to name things, and the transforming—but also transfixing—power of love . . . an urgent meditation on the meaning of art."—Jori Finkel, The Village Voice

"Filled with ferocious wisdom about the way the heart deals with suffering."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"What I Loved represents another accomplished performance from Hustvedt, a writer of undeniable talent."—San Francisco Chronicle

"This richly rewarding novel has everything—a compelling and suspenseful plot peopled by feeling, thinking characters who pursue intellectual and artistic careers . . . A reader becomes deeply engaged."—The Boston Globe

"Absorbing . . . completely engrossing . . . What I Loved is remarkable."—The Seattle Times

"It would be hard to imagine a deeper portrait of friendship between two mature men than the one painted by Siri Hustvedt in her third and best novel . . . What I Loved is fully fleshed, richly detailed, and multilayered in its psychological implications . . . [It] isn't merely a novel of ideas, but one that immerses the reader in the richness of life's ambiguities."—Chicago Sun-Times

"Moving and skillfully drawn . . . this is a novel that both moves and intrigues."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"In her third novel, Hustvedt, a sophisticated and alluring writer drawn to the psyche's most convoluted passageways, co-opts New York's competitive and faddish art world for its symbol-laden milieu. Leo Hertzberg, a thoughtful art historian, narrates a measured and mesmerizing tale of passion and tragedy that spans 20 years and involves his wife, Erica, a literary scholar . . . By wedding the ordinary torments of family life with the heightened sensibilities of artists and a criminal grotesqueness, Hustvedt ponders the dark side of inheritance and creativity and the crushing burdens of love."—Booklist (starred review)

"The ardent exchange of ideas underlies all manner of passionate action in Hustvedt's third novel (after The Enchantment of Lily Dahl), a dark tale of two intertwined New York families . . . So solid and complex are Hustvedt's characters that the change in pace is effortlessly effected—the plot developments are the natural extension of the author's meticulous examination of relationships and motives . . . A breakout work for Hustvedt."—Publishers Weekly (starred Review)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

What I Loved

YESTERDAY, I FOUND VIOLET'S LETTERS TO BILL. THEY WERE HIDDEN between the pages of one of his books and came tumbling out and fell to the floor. I had known about the letters for years, but neither Bill nor...

Read the full excerpt


  • Siri Hustvedt

  • Siri Hustvedt is the author of two previous novels, The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl. What I Loved was nominated for the Prix Étranger Femina. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Auster.

  • Siri Hustvedt Marion Ettlinger
    Siri Hustvedt




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