The Summer Without Men, By Siri Hustvedt

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The Independent Culture

When Mia's husband of 30 years leaves her for a younger woman, she has a breakdown. Recovering, she spends the summer with her nonagenarian mother and her ancient friends, and teaches creative writing to a group of schoolgirls whom she calls the Coven. Reflections on love, sex, feminism, writing, philosophy, science, bullying and the passage of time are compacted into 217 pages, enlivened by snatches of Mia's poetry and some charming cartoons. I never knew until I read this that the clitoris was "discovered" by a man named Columbus. The Summer Without Men is not a plot-driven novel – its pleasures lie in the precise, lyrical style, the quality of thought and the complexities of the characters.