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The Man of My Dreams: A Novel Hardcover – May 16, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sittenfeld's poignant if generic follow-up to her bestselling debut, Prep, similarly tracks a young woman's coming-of-age, but rather than navigating an elite school's nasty and brutish social system, this time the narrator contends with a dysfunctional family and her own yearnings for love. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Gavener is abruptly shipped off from Philadelphia to live with her aunt in Pittsburgh when her mercurial, vindictive father breaks up his marriage and family, which includes Hannah's older sister, Allison, and their browbeaten mother. Sweet but insecure and passive, Hannah had "been raised... not to be accommodated but to accommodate," an upbringing that hobbles all her subsequent relationships. The novel follows Hannah through her teens and late 20s (from 1991 to 2005), as she searches for romantic fulfillment, navigates friendships (e.g., with her larger-than-life cousin Fig) and alternately tries to reconcile with her father and distance herself from him. But the most influential connection Hannah makes is with her psychiatrist, Dr. Lewin, whom she begins seeing her freshman year at Tufts. Although the novel aspires to be taken seriously and Hannah is a sympathetic protagonist, she remains a textbook case of a young woman who wants "a man who will deny her. A man of her own who isn't hers."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Sittenfeld's second novel features a heroine, Hannah, much like the one in her widely praised début, "Prep": an outsider who casts a critical eye on her peers. Here, though, the class cues that pervaded the boarding-school milieu of "Prep" are largely absent, as Hannah's turbulent relationships with men mark her navigation into adult life and she wittily dissects the ways in which those around her entice and discourage the opposite sex. Sittenfeld has a brisk narrative style and a rare ability to turn nearly alienating flaws into vulnerability, but her central characters, despite their acute observations of others, have no introspective faculty at all. The final chapter, written as a letter from Hannah to her former psychiatrist—and perhaps intended to temper the conventional happy ending that would place this novel squarely in the "chick lit" category—is disastrously clunky.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (May 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064762
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,960,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on July 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The wonderfully misleading thing I found about this book as well as 'Prep' was that you think it's just another fluffy coming of age story complete with a wry, sarcastic narrator who always has some witty, glib comment to make while achieving a rich and deserving fictional happiness.How far this is from the truth. Sittenfeld carves out young Hannah Gavener's quest for her prince charming and happily ever after with a blunt end of sobering reality. Not afraid of embuing Hannah with some ugly characteristics makes her so much more identifiable, and consequently sympathetic and relatable. Sittenfeld is a terrific writer, and most importantly one that continues to not be afraid to present people as they really are without a concern for what anyone thinks.
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Format: Hardcover
I mostly enjoyed reading this novel and got through it quickly, but started liking it less almost the minute I finished it. The format was very "Prep" like, what with the skipping over from one time period to the next. However, whereas this device worked well in "Prep," perhaps because time was gated by the beginning and ending of four years of school, here I found it abrupt and jarring. If anything it left too much to be filled in by the imagination. I almost had the sense the book (and writing) were rushed to capitalize on the success of "Prep" so that the author did not become another "Donna Tartt." The last chapter, in particular, seemed like a cheap way out and was overwrought IMO.

Ms. Sittenfeld is an excellent writer and I hope that in her next outing she tackles a different theme ("Dreams" was essentially a carbon copy of "Prep", thematically) and that she follows a more traditional, linear format just to see if she can pull it off.
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Format: Hardcover
When your first book is as amazing as Prep, your second book had better be great. Readers have high expectations. We know what we can rightfully expect.

Curtis Sittenfeld, unlike a lot of young writers with one successful novel on the shelves, didn't fail her audience with The Man of My Dreams. The story follows Hannah from childhood through adulthood, in and out of relationships as she struggles to find a way to be happy and comfortable and true.

The writing is wonderful, capturing the moods of a bad camping trip, of being trapped in a car with a bullying father, of the ambivalence a woman feels with a too-doting lover. Hannah rings very true to life; there is nothing exaggerated or false.

The writing and character developments may be great, but the book feels very much like a short-story collection, like a variation on Melissa Bank and her latest book The Wonder Spot. This isn't a failure, but it's a surprise. A reader could rightfully expect something more original from Sittenfeld, something more profound.

Being pleasantly entertained is wonderful, but one hopes that Sittenfeld reaches a little out of her comfort zone for her next book.

It would be great if she could channel the writing into something that is more than the sum of its parts.
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Format: Hardcover
While most of Sittenfeld's first novel "Prep" left me gasping with post-traumatic stress symptoms born of my own adolescence, this follow up simply left me gasping for a real plot and credible, likeable characters. The writing, while still intelligent, has a flat, static quality, lacking the definition, clarity, momentum and preternatural emotional wisdom of its predecessor. Hannah inspires little in me but impatience, and most of her supporting cast members are either too vague or too stylized to be understood and/or believed.

Ironically, this second novel is perhaps a more authentic snapshot of the murkier, less rarified adolescence many experience; I recall being acutely conscious that the voices of Prep's youthful characters were imbued with a suspiciously advanced wealth of insight and mastery of language. Nonetheless, it is the crystallization of such insight that makes most memoir-style/coming of age stories worth reading, not merely the excrutiating--and often colorless--'real-time' detail of the journey.

I have the sense that Ms. Sittenfeld, no doubt justifiably energized and enthused by her debut success, has rushed into an 'afterthought' sophomore effort, retreading what feels like unused surplus material from earlier ideas. I hope that she will take a good long trashy summer vacation...an autumn sabbatical...whatever further hiatus may be necessary for her to refresh and further refine her obvious gifts into richer, more fully-realized work.
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Format: Hardcover
First off, yes I know I spelt "Grown" as "Groan". That's because essentially this book is almost like watching Lee Fiora - the main character in Sittenfeld's debut novel Prep, grow up into a college-aged, then twentysomething, cynical yet often insightful outsider.

Hannah Gavener has suffered from low self-esteem plagued by insecurity and mistrust for men since the age of 14, when her parents marriage falls apart. Over the next decade or so you watch as she grows up, explores the different types of relationships out there - casual, unrequited, platonic, open, and meaningful - and how she functions within them. Along the way you learn about Hannah's distaste for society's false social cues, and her secret idealism for others. The book is supported by several interwoven storylines from sub-characters including her gorgeous yet wild cousin Fig, her kind-hearted yet irritating sister Allison, and other various family members including her parents as they rebuild their lives without one another.

Ultimately I can't review this book without touching on Prep - since that is where most people will have heard of Sittenfeld and its how most people will come across this book.

The two are quite similar in that they are divided into 9-10 'chapters' which are really interweaving short stories set at different points in the main character's life. They both feature a narrator (although Lee is in first person, Hannah is almost entirely written in third person) who suffers from insecurity and self-doubt, particularly when it comes to the realms of socialibility and relationships. They both feature daughters straining to find autonomy from their slightly estranged parents.

They're different though, based solely on the age gap.
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