Do you ever have those moments where you both enjoyed and disliked a book at the same time? I am in that place right now.
“Nathaniel Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene. After several lean, striving years and an early life as a class-A nerd, he now (to his surprise) has a lucrative book deal, his pick of plum magazine assignments, and the attentions of many desirable women: Juliet, the hotshot business journalist; Elisa, Nate’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; Hannah, lively and fun and ‘almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice’.
In this twenty-first-century literary enclave, wit and conversation are not at all dead. But is romance? In The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a sensitive, flawed, modern man – to reveal the view of the new world from his garret window, and the view of women from his overactive mind.”
Whether I disliked this book because of Nate, the protagonist, and my sense of negative connection with him, or because I could not tell if Waldman was being ironic or not, I am not sure. In fact, it was not even that I disliked The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., it was an easy book to slip into and get lost in. However, I did not finish it feeling particularly comfortable.
A year in the life of Nate, experiencing his old and current relationships, was uncomfortable – he had many a bad attitude that I could attribute to myself. He reminded me of Kennedy Marr in, Straight White Male. However, where Kennedy was certainly an arse with a bad attitude, Nate’s place as a bad guy is more complicated. Nate doesn’t intend to be a bad person, he just is one and does not comprehend why women are constantly painting him in a bad light. He is unable to acknowledge that he is selfish – or at least when with the women who are not right for him.
There is no easy way to handle a breakup, some people just are not compatible, and I think this is what Waldman is trying to say. When we meet the person who is right for us, care and compromise do not feel like methods of suffocation, they feel right. Yet in demonstrating this I never felt any of the female characters got to express themselves and instead were trapped in the tropes of Nate’s male gaze. Eventually, the girl Nate settles down with is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl; flighty, creative, emotional and challenging in all the ways he feels inspired by. She is slightly unbalanced, but that is okay, he can work with that. It felt demeaning that the women Nate had hurt along the way, the every day women, where the outcasts and not-quite-good-enoughs.
Despite my unease, I would definitely recommend reading The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., if only so I have someone to give me an alternative opinion from my discomfort. It would be nice to have a more objective perspective.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman was published by Cornerstone, Random House UK and was kindly given to me via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review , thank you!