Apr 16, 2008

Surfing Through Life

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is not one of my favorite novels, but I enjoyed the meditative way in which she weaves the love triangle between Sydney, Jeff, and Ben. What I enjoyed most about the love triangle is that it is done in such a way that it takes the whole book to see the outcome and the third angle in the triangle.

***Spoiler Alert***

Sydney loves to body surf in the ocean, and this becomes a metaphor for how she lives her life. She tends to get swept up by the circumstances she finds herself in, whether it's the odd jobs she has held or the men she becomes involved with. She's been married two times previously when we meet her in the book, and she has taken time off from graduate school after the death of her second husband to tutor a young girl, Julie Edwards, for the SATs over the summer.

She has a relatively calm time at the New Hampshire beach cottage, which has appeared in several of Shreve's other novels--including one of my favorites The Pilot's Wife. The house's history is not lost on the character of Mr. Edwards in this book, and he has even become a sort of historian of the house. It has been great to see the stories that emerge from this single cottage over the years. I wonder if Shreve will set another novel in this cottage; I would enjoy visiting it again.

Suddenly, Sydney is thrust between two brothers and their competitive behavior. The competition is not overt, but alluded to throughout the book. The subtlety here may be hard to sift through, but reading Shreve's works in the past, I've become more attune to her visual cues and descriptions to uncover the internal struggles and hidden agendas and connections between her characters.

I truly enjoyed the parts after the wedding debacle where Sydney spends time in a Boston hotel to regroup and her meeting with Mr. Cavalli. I think these were eye-opening experiences for the character. Her return to New Hampshire three years later for a psychology conference and her subsequent meeting with Ben is a major turning point for a number of characters, including Sydney and Ben's mother. I just love the few lines with which Shreve accomplishes the transition in this book and the immediate mutual realization that Ben and Sydney reach together.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Overall, this book held my attention throughout the daily commute and even some evenings at home when I was engrossed in the dialogue and current situations Sydney found herself in. While it is not as well constructed as The Pilot's Wife, Sea Glass, or The Last Time They Met, I enjoyed my journey back to the oceanside of New Hampshire and the trip back into Boston, even if it was for a brief interlude.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.


Anna said...

When I wrote my review it was several months after I read the book, and I forgot several things you mentioned here.

I like how you describe Shreve's approach to the love triangle as "meditative." I agree, though I never would've been perceptive enough to say it.

Serena said...

LOL You are too funny. That's why I try to review the books right after I finish them, so it is fresh in my mind. Otherwise, it would make the reviews more like work for me; I'd have to take notes. LOL

Anne Bradshaw said...

Thanks for some wonderful reviews. I'll be back!

Serena said...

You are welcome to read my reviews anytime. Feel free to enter my poetry month contest as well. I will be giving the winner a volume of poetry.

mariel said...

I've never read Shreve before, though have often been drawn to her books. After that excellent review, I shall definitely be picking one up next time! Thanks.

Serena said...

Mariel: Shreve is one of my favorites and many of her books are meditative in nature, but some of the plot twists are phenomenal. I would pick up "The Last Time They Met."

Anonymous said...

I love Anita Shreve!

Serena said...

I love her books as well. I cannot wait for the new one!