Monday, March 21, 2011

"All He Ever Wanted" by Anita Shreve

After I read Body Surfing, I developed a certain idea about Anita Shreve's writing. Intriguing and passionate. The second book I read, however, reached up to expectations only in bits and pieces. Expectations formed based on the earlier book by the same author as well as reviews of this one.

This one is also set in New England (which makes it easier for me to relate to it all), but not in the present day (which makes it more difficult for me to relate to it all). It takes us back to the late 1800s- early 1900s. It is set in a small academic town, with the main character being a college Professor. It revolves around the two things he wants most - to marry the girl he is attracted to, and to be promoted to the post of Dean of the college. He does eventually get both of these things, after some struggle, but each is a bit of a compromise that fails to make him as happy as he had hoped to be.

The most interesting part about this book is that it is written by a female author but narrated in the first person from the point of view of a man. When I started the book, I thought this might lead to a slightly odd narrative, but it was perfectly natural, and a few pages into the book I forgot about this little tidbit of information. There are only a few scattered episodes in the story, however, that generate the kind of intrigue and passion I was hoping to find in this book. The rest of it is fairly mundane and everyday. Towards the end of the book, however, Shreve does manage to generate enough interest to keep the pages turning fast and to keep me from falling asleep on the train ride home after a long day at work. All in all, it was only okay and I would perhaps have had regrets about buying this book if I hadn't bought it dirt cheap at a yard sale.

1 comment:

vaidy said...

I liked the book very much. In fact, this was my first Shreve. Later, I bought several of hers. I liked it for its style and the language. Of course, her narrating it in a man's voice was never to be felt anywhere, probably because it never really matters. It only predisposes the reader perhaps, or as in Anita's case engenders doubts in the author as to her capability to narrate from a man's POV. Clare Chambers' The Editor's Wife - a very well-written novel - shares this characteristic.