The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman
Recently, I finished The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by author Adelle Waldman. This novel was part of my February book haul from the online retailer Book Outlet.
Tip for story lovers: If you’ve never used Book Outlet before, you can create an account using the link above and you’ll receive $10 off your first order of $25 or more!
With that said, times are crazy. Definitely support your local bookstores as much as possible during these tough times. If local book shop delivery is out of the question, Book Outlet is a convenient option. I bought seven books for $35—including two hardcovers—and each book had very minor flaws. You can also check out your local library. Many of them are doing what they can to support their communities during the coronavirus crisis.
Anyway, back to the story at hand.
I really wanted to love this book. After seeing it all over Instagram and while browsing through past Book of the Month options, I added it to my book haul thinking it sounded like something I would enjoy. The Boston Globe described Adelle Waldman as being somewhat of a modern-day Jane Austen.
As a young woman who idolized Elizabeth Bennet all through undergrad, I struggled to see it. Maybe my expectations were too high. Here’s what I did agree with, though: Waldman is shrewdly observant of the social nuances of today’s dating world as it relates to members of the opposite sex. The shallowness, the selfishness, the ghosting—Waldman nailed it.
Summary of Adelle Waldman’s debut novel
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P follows a Brooklyn writer named Nate Pivens who recently struck a book deal. Most of the book is spent inside his head, gleaning all the ways he thinks of women and how he sees himself in relation to women. In my opinion, he’s clueless, self-absorbed, and barely tolerable as a protagonist.
The book starts with Nate running into his ex-girlfriend, Juliet, while en route to another ex-girlfriend’s place (Elisa) for a dinner party. Spoiler: Nate knocked Juliet up. She got an abortion after asking for his thoughts on the situation. He’s relieved to no longer have that responsibility, so he ghosts her just days after the procedure.
Total dickhead move.
After his run-in with Juliet, he continues on his merry way to Elisa’s. Elisa is very obviously hung up on him and is using their “friendship” as a way to stay close to him in hopes of getting back together. She’s drunk and flirts with him all night, but he’s not having it. Instead, one of Elisa’s sort-of friends, Hannah Leary, catches his eye. Nate dates Hannah over the next few months, but then he loses interest and dumps her for another girl—Greer—who was also recently signed as an author.
At the end of the book, Nate runs into Hannah at a party. He gets a bit nostalgic, contemplates reaching out to her, but instead decides to pack up his apartment. Because he’s moving in with Greer after one year together.
This quote sums up Nate:
He began to pace. Of course Hannah never seemed more appealing than she did now, when she was out of reach, when he was about to move in with Greer. And yet he felt sure it was more than that, what he was feeling.
Book review: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P
I had trouble getting into this book. The pace was slow, all of the characters continuously pissed me off, and honestly, not much happened plot-wise. The ending was melancholic. I didn’t get the impression that anybody was really happy, and it felt like Nate was one ex-girlfriend away from cheating… again. Forgot to mention that—he’s cheated before and seems to think about cheating all the time.
He’s a real charmer, that one.
I guess what I’m grumpy about is that I spent all these hours reading this 240-page novel and there was no payoff. Nate wasn’t a fulfilling protagonist. I actually related more to Hannah in the story—I even remember being Hannah all throughout my college years and after. But this story wasn’t about her.
To me, Nathaniel Pivens didn’t develop as a character. I finished the book feeling the same way toward him as when I started. There was no arc and no sense of redemption for anyone. That’s why I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.
Don’t get me wrong: Waldman’s writing was mature and even beautiful at times, but the story just fell flat for me. I didn’t experience the same level of introspection as when I read even a fantasy novel about faeries or a YA contemporary romance.
Still, if none of my aforementioned gripes are that big a deal for you, give The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman a read. There’s a whole host of readers out there who praised this book, so you might just find this story worthwhile.
If you’ve read this book, what did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts—comment below!