The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. – Adelle Waldman

Nathaniel P. or Nate, is a writer, living in Brooklyn. He is on the verge of literary success. However, we are not here to discuss Nate’s writing, as it is his love affairs and friendships – mostly with women – which dominate the book.

Nate had not always been the kind of guy women call an asshole. Only recently he had been popular enough to inspire such ill will.

Recently, well more than a year ago, Nate split up with his girlfriend Elisa, who he refers to as ‘the Beautiful’. It is when he begins to date her that he knows he has made it:

Not long after, he began making rapid progress on the book that had gone on to win him a six-figure advance from a major publishing house, further enhancing both his professional and personal popularity. Water, as they say, eventually finds its level.

In case that’s not enough to convince you that one – Nate is an arsehole – and two – the book’s very well written, the novel begins with Nate on his way to Elisa’s for a dinner party. How lovely, you think, not arseholeish at all. Except, on the way there, Nate bumps into Juliet:

So Juliet didn’t like him. So what? It wasn’t as if she were being fair…He had only been out with her three or four times when it happened. It was no one’s fault. As soon as he realized the condom had broken he pulled out. Not quite in time, it turned out…

As he crossed the street, he began to feel certain that what Juliet actually blamed him for was that his reaction, however decent, had made abundantly clear that he didn’t want to be her boyfriend, let alone the father of her child. The whole thing was so personal. You were deciding whether you wanted to say yes to this potential person, literally a commingling of your two selves, or stamp out all trace of its existence.

And then following the dinner, Nate begins dating Hannah, Elisa’s friend.

Nate’s relationship with Hannah takes up the bulk of the book and, although we only see his point of view, it is a decent guide to the dating scene and the disparity between a male’s view of it and a female’s view of it. It’s as if Sex and the City had been written from the point of view of a successful Berger.

My only criticism is that I wasn’t completely convinced by the final chapter. Without giving anything away, I could see why Waldman chose to end it such but I wasn’t sure that it was true to Nate.

That aside, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is a very well written character study that kept me engaged throughout (although I’m glad I’m past dating). However, it is a book to avoid if you are easily annoyed by unlikeable characters. (I have to admit, I don’t understand this viewpoint. There are unlikeable people everywhere, isn’t it interesting to find out how they think? What motivates them?) Although, Nate swears he’s not an ‘asshole’ and who are we to judge?

Thanks to William Heinemann/Random House for the review copy.