Oct 20, 2008

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita Shreve, which will be released on Oct. 21, was such a surprise in my mailbox from Hachette Group's Miriam Parker. Thanks, Miriam! I met Anita Shreve at the 2002 National Book Festival signing in Washington, D.C. I've been in love with her writing since I first read The Pilot's Wife many years before that, and I will admit here that I've tried to emulate her style in my own writing, though my writing has not met muster.

Testimony is one of those novels that slowly draws you into a prep school known as Avery Academy in Vermont where four boys and one girl make a decision that will change their lives and the lives of other students, teachers, administrators, families, and neighbors for years to come. Testimony is given throughout the novel from a number of characters--minor and major characters--illustrating the depth to which decisions of one or several people can impact others who are seemingly unconnected to the decision-makers. Jacqueline Barnard, a researcher from the University of Vermont, receives the interviews either in written form or through personal encounters with several of the characters.

The videotape that surfaces in Avery Academy Headmaster Mike Bordwin's office is central to the story that unfolds in the novel, but another decision among a pair of adults also impacts the students and others in the town. Shreve is a master of character development and setting. I was drawn into the bitter cold winter snow of Vermont and the coziness of the town and the school, as well as the dark undercurrents in each of these characters' lives. Shreve is adept at highlighting the nuances of how underage sex and drinking affects the students, the faculty, and others, while not preaching to the reader.

Silas and Noelle, two of the main adolescents in the novel, share a deep connection to one another at a tender age. It was tough to watch how this connection was tested and ultimately severed. Silas and his mother, Anna, also have a tight bond and naturally this connection is tested. Another adolescent boy, J. Dot and his bravado, serves as a foil to Silas' hard-working, compassionate, and dutiful persona. Noelle is the naive and romantic girl-next-door, while Sienna is the wild girl looking for trouble even if it is on a subconscious level.

As always, Shreve has outdone herself in this novel, weaving a series of disjointed testimonies into a coherent and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, responsibility, and adolescence. I've often wondered if Shreve has ever tried her hand at poetry because the language she creates on the page paints a vivid image, and those images often conjure deeper meanings and emotions for the reader.

Also Reviewed By:
A Writer's Pen
The Sleepy Reader

J. Kaye's Book Blog
Reader for Life
At Home With Books
For the Good Times
S Krishna's Books
Peeking Between the Pages
Breaking the Spine
Booking Mama
Redlady's Reading Room
B&B Ex Libris
Pop Culture Junkie
She Is Too Fond of Books


Wendi said...

Wow - I love your review - this book sounds wonderful!!


Serena said...

Wendi: Thanks for stopping by and reading the review. I just loved this book, and if you haven't read Shreve before, you should try this one. Its already on the list of my favorites from this author.

Anonymous said...

Great review of a great book - I loved it, too. Isn't Miriam (from Hachette) the greatest!

Wendy said...

Fabulous review! I agree with your assessment of Shreve's writing - and yes, she has a poetic flare, doesn't she? I loved The Pilot's Wife (one of my first Shreve novels) and am always interested in what she has written. Thanks for the link to my review!

Serena said...

Bermudaonion: Miriam is awesome and so is this book.

Wendy: I love to spread the link love when I can. I hope that other bloggers will do the same. I just love Shreve and her writing. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Anonymous said...

I love how you said "Shreve has outdone herself in this novel." I really agree. Great review!

Serena said...

I've always found that she is an excellent writer especially in terms of character development. But this novel had me hooked from page one.

Jeannie said...

Your review makes me want to love the book too, Serena. I'll check it out the next time I'm at the bookstore.

Serena said...

Jeannie: Glad to see you are up and around. Thanks for stopping by. This would go on the top of my best books list this year.

Carolyn Crane said...

Ooh, great review. I've read a bit of Shreve - 'All He Ever Wanted' and 'The Last Time They Met.' She really is fantastic. Precise, evocative. Both of those really stayed with me.

Serena said...

Carolyn: This is another of those novels that will stay with you. Its one of my top Shreve picks.

Anna said...

I can't wait to receive this book! Shreve is an expert at characterization, and I've yet to read a book by her that I haven't liked! Great review!


Serena said...

Anna: You are going to love this one!

S. Krishna said...

Hey Serena, I started a discussion on my rating system after reading J. Kaye's comment - if you have a thought, let me know!


Shana said...

Serena, I've yet to read my copy of this one so I'll be back to read your review when I've finished.


Serena said...

No worries Shana. I can't wait to see what you think.

Darlene said...

Great review Serena. It was hard to see Silas' connection with Noelle and his mother broken. Of all the characters I connected with him and felt his hurt. This was just a situation in which nobody could win. I added your link to my review also-thanks for linking mine.

Serena said...

Dar: You are welcome. I really loved this book and it was hard to read about the break down of these relationships.

Anonymous said...

I have read some good reviews of this one. I like your comment about how the author's language is almost poetic. I'll have to check it out.

Serena said...

nbbaker: This is an awesome book....I was engrossed from page one!

Jill said...

Great review...and thanks for posting the link to my site!

Alea said...

I really like Silas's and Noelle's relationship. This book was heartbreaking but usually heartbreaking books leave a bad feeling with me this one didn't really do that. The tragedy didn't effect how I felt about the book like it often does. I liked that.

Serena said...

Jill: No problem.

Alea: I usually have the same problem as well, but Shreve is a master at making you be ok with her character's choices...and the sad ends of some of her books.