Despite the success of his first solo show in Paris and the support of his brilliant French wife and young daughter, thirty-four-year-old British artist Richard Haddon is too busy mourning the loss of his American mistress to appreciate his fortune. But after Richard discovers that a painting he originally made for his wife, Anne—when they were first married and deeply in love—has sold, it shocks him back to reality and he resolves to reinvest wholeheartedly in his family life…just in time for his wife to learn the extent of his affair. Rudderless and remorseful, Richard embarks on a series of misguided attempts to win Anne back while focusing his creative energy on a provocative art piece to prove that he’s still the man she once loved.
The protagonist of Courtney Maum’s debut novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, is really, truly hard to like ... To be clear, Richard is not in any way an antihero. He’s not evil; he’s not terrible. He is a regular guy who has made the sort of despicable errors that regular guys make all the time ... I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You is less a study of a marriage dissolving, or even of a man dissolving, than a lament for what is damaged possibly beyond repair ... Living alone and missing his family, Richard flounders, and so do we. So much is happening, but it can be difficult to be invested when we find ourselves as unsure of Richard’s worth as he is, and perhaps a bit unsure if we care terribly whether Anne will have him back. Richard is not exactly repentant enough, or not in the right ways. He’s self-absorbed, self-pitying and not a little whiny ... This novel is not all work and no play. Maum’s descriptions of the Paris art world are entertaining, and there is sex — real, full-on, who-put-what-where sex. Maum is funny: the kind of funny that is mean and dirty, with some good bad words thrown in. And she has a satiric eye for artsy pretension ... Fortunately, Richard’s marriage is not dead, just seriously wounded. It’s all the more enticing for that, as Maum asks whether a broken marriage can be put together again, whether mistakes can be forgiven, whether redemption is finally possible for Richard, even if we never really cared for the guy in the first place.
Maum has not reinvented the centuries-old marriage plot that’s the cornerstone of both real and fictional societies. Her novel, though, does explore something new, and perhaps unique to our modern condition: our inability to withstand the quotidian, the mundane, the average ... It’s hard at times to sympathize with this man, who has clearly upended up his own fairytale world. But we do, inevitably, and as a result we take away from the book the notion that exerting one’s own agency is an ends unto itself. If the outcome happens to make one happy, that’s icing on the cake ... Maum...has a gift for mapping the emotional and psychological terrain of a man, much like Maggie Shipstead did in her debut Seating Arrangements. And like Shipstead, she crafts her sentences in a way that catches the reader off-guard: for every note of chick-lit melodrama there are full measures played in darker, daringly honest, minor keys. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You is an awkward first novel, but if it weren’t it would somehow be disingenuous to its own literary ambitions of embracing the mess of our lives and welcoming it into our homes, calling the mess a work of art.
Though Maum is dealing with the timeworn topic of marital dysfunction, the author's dark humor, and raw emotional insights infuse the familiar plot line with an engrossing freshness. With sharp prose, Maum chronicles the messy midlife pilgrimage that follows as Richard embarks on a mission to repair both his relationship with his wife and his status in the art world ... Despite these small pitfalls and a few incredulous twists, Maum’s portrait of a domestic dysfunction remains realistic and honest, and Maum succeeds at keeping the reader curious and invested in the outcome of the couple’s relationship. The initial drama of the plot is what draws us in, but the rawness of Richard’s internal struggles and the honesty of his inquiries are what keep us reading. I’m Having So Much Fun Without You is a sharp, big-hearted debut with an emotional pulse that lingers long after we close the book