Tag Archives: Anita Shreve

Taking a Short Break

I’ve decided to take a little time off from reviewing books to focus on a few unfinished projects.  I’ll still be reading voraciously and thinking about how each book changes my outlook.

To start the month of April, I am looking forward to reading:

9781101870730_p0_v1_s192x300 Autumn by Ali Smith (I listened to this on the plane, but I need to see it in print – so many nuances, I want to digest Smith’s words slowly).

9780679735908_p0_v1_s118x184Possession by A.S. Byatt (my friendly librarian gave me the movie version and now I am anxious to see how it compares to the novel by this Man Booker winner).

9781609453855_p0_v2_s192x300Ties by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri (I just started reading this and am already under Lahiri’s spell of luxurious language).

9781941040515_p0_v1_s118x184Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (a pick of one of my book discussion groups).

9781616206901_p0_v2_s192x300The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church (another book club pick).

9780385350907_p0_v2_s118x184The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (her newest novel to be published April 18th.

I hope to restart the discussion of books with you here again next month.





Anita Shreve and Stella Bain

9780316098861_p0_v3_s260x420With some authors, what they write doesn’t matter so much as that they meet the expectations of their faithful readers.  The author of seventeen novels, Anita Shreve delivers her latest – Stella Bain – using memory loss, an abusive husband, World War I, shell shock, psychoanalysis, and lost loves in a romantic tale of an early twentieth century woman who has the strength and courage to recover and create a new life.

If you are a fan and have been waiting, you will enjoy the story and wonder when the next book is coming.

Have you read Anita Shreve’s Rescue?  Check out the review – here

Wanted: A Good Book

Despite having recently read and reviewed two of the three top books on the New York Times best seller list – And The Mountains Echoed and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I haven’t lost myself in a good book in quite a while.  A good friend echoed my sentiments when she recently wrote to me – “I’d love to fall in love with a new book or an author.”

reading in bedAlthough I’ve tried, many books have not kept my attention past the first chapters and I’ve found a reason to stop reading what could have been compelling in another mood:  John La Carre’s A Delicate Truth – a spy thriller that will probably become a movie;  Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon – young adult modern dystopia with a dyslexic hero; William Nicholson’s Motherland – World War II love story, and Marisa de los Santos’s romance novel Love Walked In.

The pile of books by British authors (new to me) keeps growing on my shelf, but I haven’t found a Jane Gardam compelling story among them yet:

  • Edwyn St. Albyn: At Last and all the preceeding Patrick Melrose novels
  • Barbara Pym: Jane and Prudence, A Glass of Blessings, Quartet in Autumn

James McWilliams essay in the New York Times Book Review – Clunkers  – suggests another use for the overwrought reader with a pile of books – just throw them.  The satisfaction of a page well bent might antagonize those who cannot even bear a bent-over page marker, but his historical evidence offers cases of “literary projectiles” as both dangerous and beneficial.  Of course, throwing a Kindle would not have the same effect.

I hear Anita Shreve has a new book coming out soon; maybe she will save me.

The Love of My Youth

The theme of reuniting with a first love, after years of going different ways, is not new. But unlike Anita Shreve’s thoughtful Where or When, or Kristin Hannah’s mysterious On Mystic Lake, Mary Gordon’s The Love of My Youth transports the reader to Rome. As Miranda and Adam get reacquainted after not seeing each other for forty years, their daily walk touring the Eternal City is more inviting than the suspense of discovering the trauma behind their separation.

High school sweethearts who became college lovers, Adam was an aspiring pianist and Miranda a fiery activist in their youth. A betrayal tears them apart, and they have moved on to marry others and have children, with lives that have displaced their dreams. The serendipitous reunion offers a chance to revisit their time together in Rome years ago, and to resolve issues that led them to separate paths. As they wander through famous gardens, fountains, churches, and art, their slow conversations frame their reminiscing while revealing both who they were and who they have become.

The slow dialogue requires attention to catch the inflections, as Gordon tries to use her characters to mark moments they may have misconstrued and may never understand. The thought-provoking inserts are sometimes overdone:

“At some point we will not be here. On this earth. At some point, Miranda and he will be…where. Not here. He takes her hand and kisses it, and they are both embarrassed, so he drops it quickly, and calls the waiter for a check.”

It’s a slow slog as they avoid the elephant in the room. At times, you may wish they would just say what they mean to each other, instead of the italicized thought bubbles Gordon inserts. When their thoughts fall back to their youth, the action has historical context (the sixties) that shaped their lives, and as young hopefuls with potential, their characters seem more remarkable. In the present, the characters fade and Rome becomes the focal point.

After three weeks of angst and touring Rome, Miranda and Adam finally confront each other, and the betrayal is revealed. It’s no surprise by now that they were never the youthful soul mates they envisioned; Gordon’s access to their inner thoughts will have convinced you that they would have made each other miserable.

Villa Borghese

The story was a restful respite after reading Flynn’s Gone Girl; the psychological trauma is soft-pedelled with Gordon, and all is resolved philosophically. Revisiting Rome – the Villa Borghese, the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Campo dia Fiore, the Bocca della Verite (the mouth of truth) – as well as its hidden treasures – La Casina dell’Orologio, Bernini’s saddled elephant, Keats’s grave – was a better story than the fate of the two long-lost lovers.

Rescue by Anita Shreve

Appreciating what you have, not wishing you had taken a different path – popular theme this time of year – what if…

And if you dare to wonder?  Clarence only gets his wings when George Bailey realizes It’s A Wonderful Life as he is living it.  Anita Shreve offers her version this year with her latest book, Rescue, but her ending is more cautious – a little schmaltzy, but not as happy as Frank Capra’s classic.

Webster, a young paramedic, meets the love of his life, Sheila, at the scene of her DWI accident.  He rescues her; she gets pregnant; they marry.  For awhile, all is well – until Sheila starts drinking again and has another car accident – this time injuring two-year old Rowan.  Thinking his life and that of their two-year old would be better off without her, Webster sends Sheila away.

Fifteen years later, after yet another accident – this time involving a rebellious drunken teenage Rowan, Sheila reenters their lives.

Shreve’s story seems a little too contrived, but through Webster, she gives us a glimpse inside the head of a man who faces death and survival in his “rescue” job everyday.    No real surprises in Rescue; instead, Shreve’s strength is in the details – inviting you to become part of the family – so that you feel you are inside the story with them.