What is a woman's price? A brilliant new novel about love, jealousy and loss by the internationally bestselling author of THE PILOT'S WIFE.
Anita Shreve is the author of nine other critically acclaimed and bestselling novels, all published in Abacus paperback.
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.
'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
At the turn of the 20th century, Nicholas Van Tassel, an English literature professor at a small New Hampshire college, manages to escapes from a hotel fire. As he stands in the dark among the other souls lucky enough not to have perished, he sees Etna Bliss. Though she is not beautiful, he is immediately drawn to her. The result of that first fateful meeting is an obsession from which he is unable to escape. Nicholas courts Etna and eventually marries her, though she admits that she does not love him and never can. The jealousy that begins to simmer on their wedding night eventually leads to Nicholas's demise. Their marriage, though filled with companionship, mutual respect, and concern about their two children during the daylight hours, grows ever more precarious as evening draws near. Ultimately, a betrayal occurs. Shreve's prose is as compelling as the story itself, and her characters are all too human in their weaknesses. The author asks whether we can really possesses another person and reminds us of our tendency to cling to the past. Readers who loved Shreve's portrayal of human relationships and her building of tension, particularly in The Pilot's Wife, will find it again here. For most public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Nanci Milone Hill, Lucius Beebe Memorial Lib., Wakefield, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.