Snapshots in the life of a slightly depressed young woman with low self-esteem.
I loved Sittenfeld’s debut novel Prep, and had high expectations for this one. I was pretty disappointed. Hannah is passive and largely disinterested in life, and this just doesn’t make for a compelling main character, unless her passivity is what the story is about. But Sittenfeld doesn’t have a strong premise, nor has she engaged with some of the ideas that pepper the narrative. The book feels loose and disconnected, and I never really knew where Hannah–or Sittenfeld–stood on anything that was happening.
The structure is a problem as well. The book spans about a decade in Hannah’s life, but the moments that Sittenfeld has chosen to portray don’t connect with one another to paint a larger picture. The result is episodic and half-baked.
Finally, Hannah isn’t a well-constructed character. She seems dead, somehow–and this was Sittenfeld’s biggest problem in Prep, because Lee Fiora was also curiously passive. The difference was that it felt like Lee wanted to be active, and that it was Sittenfeld who was holding her back. In Hannah, Sittenfeld has created a character who has no issue with the small, dull life that Sittenfeld has given her, and when she makes an active choice (such as to set ground rules for an open relationship with the office skirt-chaser), it feels like Sittenfeld has to twist her arm to do it. Hannah is one of those characters who feels like she’s sitting in a box, waiting for the author to trot her out and make some plot, but she really just wants to go back inside and sit quietly by herself.