The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

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Reviewer: Melinda
Recommendation: 4/5


The Blazing World,  tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity.

“All intellectual and artistic endeavors fare better in the mind of the crowd when the crowd knows that somewhere behind the great work or the great spoof it can locate a cock and a pair of balls.”

Hustvedt is a genius. This novel is not only creative, ingenious but extremely intelligent. She depicts the art world for all its beauty and blemishes. A poignant narrative and a moving sketch of a woman with moxie and chutzpah not to mention incredible intelligence. Hustvedt shows a meticulous style – including footnotes and references. The numerous characters, and narrators add to the plausibility and outstanding overall presentation.

Harry is quite a woman. Passionate in all she does, she is unleashed, fearless. She is funny, demonstrative and amazingly artistic. Her love for her husband is unmeasurable.

I enjoyed every aspect of this novel; the ‘masks’ Harry enlisted to show her art. The narration was my absolute favorite part – the varying perspectives, the eclectic voices, the notebooks creating a ‘puzzle.’ The interviews, all well done and cleverly brought to attention.

I felt this story also had a prominent love story entwined throughout. Harry was hopelessly in love and devoted to her husband and it is evident as the story unfolds. Sad, beautiful, enhancing Harry and her story.

The Blazing World is masterstroke, unique, complex and inventive. A story of perception, love, greed, sexism, prejudice and recognition. Hustvedt created a memorable and stimulating novel. Undoubtedly I look forward to reading more from this artistic and clever author. Art fans, feminists, anyone enjoying a cerebral narrative will want to add this to your must read list. Highly highly recommend.

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