February 16, 2005

All He Ever Wanted

I was happy to finish Anita Shreveís All He Ever Wanted. It was a difficult book to read, different from her other novels. Difficult to develop any compassion for the narrator. He was so despicable that I just wanted to slug him, really.

The story takes place around the turn of the 20th century. Nicholas Van Tassal is a teacher of literature and rhetoric at a small New England college. And he uses language (the story is told in the first person singular) that is very stilted and controlled, just as he describes himself to be in the narrative. Very proper and controlling.

It is a painful, sad story that he tells, of his unrequited and undying love for his wife. His actions are so unpleasant that it is hard to read. The pace is slow, the details of the period and the story precise. Obviously the writing is intense and believable. Shreve plumbs the depth of desire, love and jealousy in intimate and immediate detail, proving amazing writing skills. Yet I donít know if I would recommend it. Overall, it is very good writing, a fascinating, complex story but not a story I enjoyed (in the conventional sense) reading. But then, life is like thatónot always easy to take.

Posted by leya at February 16, 2005 05:55 PM