“ Author: Anita Shreve / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 24 September 1992 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: Strange Fits of Passion / ISBN 13: 9780349105864 / ISBN 10: 0349105864 „
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This was a book I picked up for my recent holiday as it was on offer for only £5 in Tesco and it looked like an easy but enjoyable read and one that would be perfect for holiday. I also thought the synopsis on the back of the book sounded quite interesting and I did enjoy this book.
From the back of the book we are told, "A young and successful journalist working in New York, Maureen English appears to have the perfect life and family. But Maureen's husband, a highly respected fellow reporter, has in private a tendency towards alcohol and violent abuse. When the situation at home becomes unbearable, Maureen takes her baby daughter and flees.
In a Maine fishing town she assumes a new identity and spends six weeks battling sub-zero temperatures, intrusive townsfolk and fear of discovery. Against the force of the wintry sea - the cawing of the gulls, the lobstermen hauling their catch, the press of waves against the rocks - Maureen settles into the rhythms of a new life. But this calming respite is about to come crashing to an end...
The book is written from the perspective of lots of different characters and I like how we get an insight into each persons take on the situation. There is a reporter writing a story on Maureen's life so the snippets we get from each character read like interviews in a way and a way of the reporter to gather all the information together for her story.
I liked how the book took us back through different times and told us a bit about Maureen's life in New York and how she was in her old life. Most of it however dealt with her life in Maine and you could really tell that the book was working up to a dramatic ending and I liked the fear and suspense the writer worked up to.
Thankfully having never been a victim of domestic violence its something I've never really had to think about but I think this book did a good job of describing the emotions involved and how each party in the situation feels and acts. You could argue that what Maureen did was justified or you could take a different view but then its up to each reader to decide what they think.
I love where this book was set. I would absolutely love to travel to the East coast of the States as it just all sounds so quaint and perfect and I think the writer did a great job of painting a picture about the little town that Maureen moves to. She describes the cold weather well and also the feel of the sea and how the fishermen really had to struggle day in and day out.
I enjoyed this book, I wouldn't call it a classic but I still remember it now and I would recommend it to other readers. The book is from Abacus fiction and has an ISBN 978-0-349-10586-4.
Strange Fits of Passion is the first book I have read by Anita Shreve, even though she is an author who has been around for quite a long time. When I first started reading this book I wasn't sure that I liked the style and I didn't think I was going to enjoy it! How wrong could I be? It is a fabulous book with a very strong story which I found both riveting and absorbing!
Thr story is written in quite an unusual way and I think this did give me problems at the start. It begins in what is the present day, although as the book was written in 1992, that is actually quite a while ago. It begins with an autor talking about how she writes her books, and I wasn't sure if this was part of the story, or Anita Shreve giving some kind of introduction! It was part of the story and the author is meeting with a young girl who's mother she wrote about after a sensational court case many years ago. She wants to share all the notes and interviews she had with the daughter in order to help her understand what happened.
This modern day element of the story lasts a few pages before the reader is transported back in time. The time is December 1970 and we are actually reading all the notes and transcripts taking by the author. There are a mixture of these. Some are transcripts taken from interviews held with local townspeople from where the central character lived, but the bulk are the notes made by the woman herself while she was in jail awaiting trial. Because the book is written like this, right from the start the reader knows that the woman has done something terrible although we are left to try and work out what it might be until right towards the end.
The woman in question is Mary Amesbury, once known as Maureen English, who has fled from her New York home along with her baby daughter Caroline, in order to escape her abusive, bullying husband. Through her notes we learn about how she and her husband Harrold got together at the start and how their relationship deteriorated as he became more controlling and abusive. We also come to understand how she arrives at the small coastal fishing town of Hillaire and how it becomes a bit of a sanctuary for her.
We follow her quiet life for six short weeks and see how she gradually starts to find happiness and tranquility. But because of what we read at the beginning, the reader knows that this is not going to last and ultimately Mary is heading for tragedy. When that time eventually arrives, it is tense and thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat. Having said this though, because of all the clues which were laid throughout the book, I have to say that I was not surprised by what happened. I won't say any more about this though so as not to spoil the book.
Interlaced between Mary's notes are commentaries from a number of townspeople who all seem to have an opinion about Mary and what happened. These break up the story well and provide interesting insights into the mindsets of people living in a small town.
After all the notes and transcripts, the reader is then presented with the story written by the author we met at the beginning. This makes interesting reading as we can see how she has merged all the notes and transcripts together to make her story - sometimes presenting Mary as a sympathetic victim, but at other times not so much.
And then finally we are back in the present day at the meeting between the author and the young girl, who is obviously the daughter, Caroline. The author is confronted and has to come clean about how and why she wrote the story and has to exmine a few home truths as she does so! We also at this late stage find out what actually happened to Mary at the tril and about her life afterwards.
So this is a very intersting story that is written in an unusual way. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it but in the end I loved it, and I felt a real warmth towards the central character Mary. It is almost heart wrenching in the way she reveals what her relationship with her husband was like and how she feels a certain amount of guilt because she thinks she was a complicit party. You also have to remember that this story was written seventeen years ago about events that were almost forty years old. Views about abuse and rape in marriage were very different to how they are now, and the social comment in the story is very interesting.
Overall then this was an excellent read. Once I got into it I just wanted to keep on reading and resented having to put the book down in order to do other things!
There was one slight disappointment though. I thought I was reading a book which was 370 pages long, so as I was getting towards the end I was relishing the last few pages and what they would turn up. However, on page 340, the story ended and i discovered that the last thirty pages were actually an extract from another Anita Shreve book. I did feel cheated even though I did feel tht the end was well rounded and appropriate!
If you are interested in reading this book, it is published by Abacus and at the moment can be bought on Amazon for £5.99.