Anita Shreve is the author of seven previous novels all published by Little, Brown and Abacus.
The latest work by this versatile novelist (The Pilot's Wife; Fortune's Rocks) may be her most mature to date, as she demonstrates new subtleties in the unfolding of a complex plot. Proceeding in reverse chronological order, Shreve recounts the obsessive love between poets Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes; theirs is a highly charged affair, though they connect only three times in 35 years. The novel's three sections ("Fifty-Two," "Twenty-Six" and "Seventeen") refer to Linda's ages when she meets and later encounters Thomas first (last in the book's structure) as a troubled teen near Boston with "only indistinct memories of her mother and no real ones of her father"; then in Kenya, where Linda has joined the Peace Corps and Thomas's wife, Regina, is working with UNICEF; and finally at a literary festival in Toronto where both characters, unbeknownst to each other, are guest speakers. Though each of the novel's segments is intensely powerful, the cumulative effect is especially wrenching, as the reader knows what Linda and Thomas have yet to experience. Their Africa encounter is especially gripping, since both characters are torn between their mutual passion and their love for their spouses. (Linda has also married, and Regina's announcement of her pregnancy adds further tension.) Shreve's compassionate view of human frailties a recurring theme in much of her work is at its most affecting here, as she meticulously interweaves past and present with total credibility. Her fluid narrative perfectly mirrors her protagonists' evolving temperaments and viewpoints, while her overall restraint serves to intensify the novel's devastating conclusion. (Apr.) FYI: The film version of Shreve's 1996 novel, The Weight of Water, starring Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley, is due in theaters later this year. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Shreve is one of those rare novelists whose prose is just as remarkable as her storytelling. This new work picks up the character Thomas Janes from Shreve's The Weight of Water (LJ 10/15/96). (He is the husband of narrator Jean.) We learn the history of Thomas's great love with fellow poet Linda Fallon. The novel is told in reverse time, starting with the present, when Linda and Thomas, now in their fifties, reconnect at a literary festival. The middle section takes place in Africa, where the couple, then age 26, had a disastrous affair that horribly affected a number of loved ones and changed their own lives forever. The intensity of Africa's vibrant texture and color heightens the passionate drama. And the last section, during high school, takes place in New England, where Thomas and Linda launched their life-long obsession with each other. While the backwards progression is confusing at times and can necessitate some rereading, it is time well spent. The tragic relationship of these two connected souls will stick with you for days. Oprah-pick Shreve does it again with this achingly emotional novel. Stock up. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/00.] Beth Gibbs, formerly with P.L. of Charlotte & Mecklenburg Cty., NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.