Review: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A Novel by Adelle Waldman

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Title: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A Novel
Author: Adelle Waldman
Format: Hardcover, eBook, MP3 CD, AudioBook
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 256
ISBN: 978-0805097450
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Literary Fiction
Stars: 4
Purchase Now: Amazon § Audible §  Barnes and Noble § Publisher

About the Book:

“He was not the kind of guy who disappeared after sleeping with a woman—and certainly not after the condom broke. On the contrary: Nathaniel Piven was a product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover, he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience.” – From The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Nate Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene. 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 is lively fun and holds her own in conversation with his friends.

In this 21st-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead. Is romance? Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a modern man—who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down. With tough-minded intelligence and wry good humor The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is an absorbing tale of one young man’s search for happiness—and an inside look at how he really thinks about women, sex and love.

Book Review:

Self-absorbed and believing his own press, Nate is that curious mix of insecure bravado and utter cluelessness that results in his lack of real connection to the opposite sex. Typical of the ‘tortured artist’ mode, Nate has a tendency to overthink everything. That in and of itself is not a bad characteristic, unless or until it stops forward progress, or the information that you are basing all decisions upon are flawed. And that is, as I see it, most of Nate’s problem. He has zero clue about the development of these characteristics that he can write about: he understands compassion and connection, and he appears to fit his self-proclaimed “nice guy” tag, but understanding is not the same as incorporating traits into your life.

I’ve known several “Nates” in my life, I think everyone has met a couple. Surprisingly, they are rather charismatic and intriguing people, on the surface: deeper down however the cracks start to show as you have someone who is consistently unable to recognize his own faults or rushes to judgment for he is proclaiming his ‘balanced nature’ rather than acquiring one. It was hard to dislike him entirely, however, so well nuanced was his underlying insecurity and desire to connect, even though he was clueless.

Similarly well-defined were the secondary characters, complex and well developed they refused to be pigeonholed into the more ‘standard expectations’ of their initial appearance. Whether male or female, each brought a unique and unexpected twist to their role in the story, challenging the reader’s general ideas of 30-somethings in the big city.

I’m torn between this being a stellar satirical view on finding love, or a thoughtfully nuanced story based on actual people in real situations. The satirical tone is less broad, more a nod or covert wink than an elbow and pointing, and there are several moments of spot-on description and observations that fit the tone of satire. Then, just as quickly the story turns to a more softly spoken retelling, encouraging the reader to empathize and connect with the lonliness at the core of the characters, their questions and concerns and their insecurities.

Waldman has used her skill and crafted an elegant story that is fast paced, humorous and intelligent, providing a new look at what it means to be human.

I received an Arc copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

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