Author: Adelle Waldman
Genre: Fiction | Contemporary
Synopsis: Writer Nate Piven’s star is rising. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who holds her own in conversation with his friends. When one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to consider what it is he really wants.
Would I recommend? If you’re into contemporaries with social commentary, and if you like reading about pretentious characters.
Final Rating: ★★☆☆☆
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Isn’t the cover of this book one of the best covers you’ve ever seen, or am I insane? The only reason I bought this book was because the cover stood out; elegant, simple, colorful. I found myself wandering Barnes & Noble when I came across this, and I didn’t even read the synopsis before adding it to my ‘to-read’ shelf on Goodreads. Later, I found the hardcover copy on Book Outlet for $3, and of course I had to buy it because that cover!
I’m afraid the cover is one of the only good things about this book. Perhaps it was own foolishness that I bought this book based solely on aesthetic rather than on the synopsis. Either way, even if I had known the synopsis, I would have been sorely disappointed because it wasn’t the story or the plot that bothered me, it was everything else. I disliked all the characters. The book encompassed a huge time-line, and the novel itself is around 250 pages long, so it didn’t do this large time-line any justice. And I felt like Waldman was using her characters to comment on societal norms regarding gender and literature, which bothered me.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. follows Nate Piven, a thirty-something freelance writer living in Brooklyn. We encounter several of Nate’s ex-girlfriends, and the ones we do not actually get to see, we are told about by the narrator. From his crushes and reluctant relationships in high school to his disastrous relationship with a woman who he got pregnant, Waldman provides a portrait of Piven through the course of several of these relationships. Until she zooms in on one relationship in particular. Nate meets Hannah and they hit it off- will Nate’s reluctance to commit, and his problems with the opposite gender screw things up again, or will he push through and make this work?
Like I said before, I had no problems with the story at all. I enjoyed the premise of following one character through his various relationships, seeing how he started and how he ended up. I enjoyed reading about the women he dated. I liked how Waldman incorporated several different, smaller love-stories in one novel. I did also like how Waldman zoomed in on one relationship and followed the course of that relationship to offer us more insight into our protagonist’s mind. I thought that was a great idea.
However, I did not think that the length of the novel did any of these storylines any justice. If you’re writing a book about the love affairs of a man, I believe that some focus needs to be given on all of his important love affairs, and even though some focus was provided, it was largely fleeting and unsatisfactory. Some of the girls Nate mentions are just there in the pages and don’t actually do anything for the plot, so it seemed filler. I thought the relationships could have been much better fleshed out.
My main problem with the novel was the characterization. All of the characters – except perhaps Hannah – were completely asses, and I despised them. Nate was a douche-bag. He was condescending and judgmental. He had no idea what he wanted with life and in this dilemma of his, he dragged other people down with him. He had no respect for any of the women he dated. He was pretentious and spent most of his time getting into debates about gender and capitalism and government that served no purpose in the novel itself, but were just there to make the characters seem intelligent.
The only redeeming quality about Nate was that at least he knew he was a dick. That was about it, though, because even his awareness of his terrible soul bothered me because he didn’t try to fix anything.
Most of the other characters were treated like props. Nate has friends, but they very rarely show up, and when they do, they’re just as horrible as he is. The girls who are out of his friend circle were apparently all empty-brained women who wanted nothing but sex. And of course, despite Nate being a terrible human being, all the girls flocked to him like flies. Why? I have no fucking idea, and I don’t think Adelle Waldman does either.
Adelle Waldman has all the technique. All of it. She’s a talented writer, but she doesn’t know how to construct a story. Sorry. A little more showing, a little less telling. Perhaps more work on pacing would be good. Perhaps writing a longer novel when there’s a larger time-line, or condensing the time-line to fit a smaller novel. But then again, this is a debut; maybe I’m being too harsh.
Overall, this book had a lot of potential, but it just fell flat.