Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review: "The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P." by Arielle Waldman

Nathaniel Piven could be considered by some to be quite a catch. A well-read Harvard graduate, Nate is a good-looking writer who recently sold his first book, and thinks of himself as a bit of an intellectual. Raised by immigrant parents to respect intelligence and hard work, he wants to be seen as irresistible, but he struggles with his self esteem. Nate has had several long-term relationships with women, but ultimately he's grown bored, or wearies of his girlfriends' idiosyncrasies.

"Although it wasn't something he'd admit aloud, he often thought women were either deep or reasonable, but rarely both."

When Nate meets Hannah, a fellow writer, at his ex-girlfriend's dinner party, he is charmed by her intellect and her knack for conversation, as well as her looks, but he is unsure whether he should pursue a relationship with her. Hannah isn't looking for a serious relationship either, but as Nate begins to pursue her, and she realizes how much she enjoys being with him, she finds herself falling for him. And Nate loves the way Hannah can hold her own in arguments and match wits with his pretentious friends.

As the relationship deepens, however, Nate finds himself falling into the same behavior patterns. Will he realize what he really wants before it's too late, or will he wind up ending another relationship for superficial reasons?

Honestly, I know there are many men like Nate out there, and I'd like to apologize to all women everywhere. Not only wouldn't I ever want someone I knew to date him, I didn't enjoy spending time reading about him. I found this book utterly frustrating and even a bit annoying—the marketing of this book leads you to believe Nate is going to have some major epiphany, but in the end, he remains the same callow, unrepentant man-child he has always been. There is so much pretension among the characters in this book, except Hannah, that I couldn't understand why she was even friends with these people, let alone interested in pursuing a relationship with Nate.

There are times you read a book and find yourself wondering, "Who cares?" That was the way I felt while reading The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. While Arielle Waldman is a very talented writer—she certainly has created a group of utterly unappealing characters—I wish this book had a little more depth to it, a little more heart, and a little more growth. While I'm curious to know what happened to Nate after the book ended, I hope someday someone was able to smack some sense into him.

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