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All He Ever Wanted

New or Used: 23 copies from $7.00
New or Used: 23 copies from $7.00

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About the Author

Anita Shreve is the author of nine other critically acclaimed and bestselling novels, all published in Abacus paperback.


Set at the turn of the last century, like Fortune's Rocks, this work begins when a man fleeing a hotel fire encounters a mysterious woman who will ultimately become his wife. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

*'A painful tale of obsession . . . impeccably done' SUNDAY TIMES 'Shreve is prolific, polished, unputdownable. Above all, she delivers serious topics with a readable touch' GUARDIAN 'Fluent and purposeful in its portrayal of the despair and claustrophobia seething beneath an ordered surface' SUNDAY TIMES 'Etna is a woman operating under rigorous and agonising self-discipline. Volcanic passions exist beneath her submissive facade' JOANNE HARRIS Anita Shrieve's bitter novel All He Ever Wanted is a fascinating demonstration of the theory that old stories give new stories the bones from which they derive their power. There is a sense in which this is a reverse Bluebeard narrative--the quietly monstrous narrator Van Tassel is obsessed with taking possession of all the secret rooms in the heart of the woman he loves and cannot understand why secrets might be a good thing. Van Tassel is one of the best characters Shrieve has created--a fussy, pedantic man with a real capacity for passion and some genuine grievances with life, but lacking in some crucial ingredients of his moral compass. His love for his wife, Etna, and with the petty politics of the college where he is teaching, turn him steadily rancid, and it is only within the framing narrative that an older Van Tassel seems to be approaching a capacity for redemption. Part of the strength of the book is that Shrieve has understood the beginnings of the 20th century, not merely in terms of the surface details, but in the permissions the ideas of the time give those with small amounts of domestic power to behave badly. In the end, though, Van Tassel loses almost everything--if there is a weakness here, it is that Shrieve is so optimistic that, out of his reach and knowledge, Etna finds a contentment that Van Tassel's narrative cannot show us.' Roz Kaveney, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW 'Anita Shreve's assured, subtle writing makes this more than a typical tale of Victorian marital oppression' TELEGRAPH

In bestsellers such as Fortune's Rocks, Shreve has revealed an impeccably sharp eye and a generous emotional sensitivity in describing the moment when a man and a woman become infatuated with each. She is less successful this time out, perhaps because the epiphany is one-sided. Escaping from a New Hampshire hotel fire at the turn of the 20th century, Prof. Nicholas Van Tassel catches sight of Etna Bliss and is instantly smitten. She does not reciprocate his feeling, for she has her own unrequited lust, for freedom and independence. That they marry guarantees tragedy. Nicholas tells the story in retrospect, writing feverishly on a train trip in 1933 to his sister's funeral in Florida. His pedantic style is full of parenthetical asides, portentous foreshadowing and rhetorical throat. His erotic swoon commands sympathy, until it carries him past any definition of decency. He will do anything to bring down Philip Asher, his academic rival and the brother of Etna's true love, Samuel. He plays on prevailing anti-Semitism (the Ashers are Jewish), and he persuades his daughter, Clara, to claim that Philip touched her improperly, which besmirches not only Philip's reputation but Clara's as well. We see Etna herself only secondhand, except for some correspondence with Philip reproduced toward the end of the tale. Credit the author for making the point that Etna and her sisters had too little autonomy even to tell their own stories, but filtering Etna's experience through Nicholas's sensibility deprives the novel of intimacy and immediacy. (Apr. 15) Forecast: A coordinated laydown will energize sales, and Shreve's latest will likely hit the charts. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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