Monday, January 31, 2011

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve


Body Surfing

I have read five other novels written by Anita Shreve since 2003 when I first discovered I liked this authors descriptive style of writing. Although in this instance I could have done without quite as much detail of exactly what people were wearing.

This novel is divided into three sections covering the periods of 2002, 2003 and then finishing up with 2005. The protagonist is Sydney Sklar  divorced then widowed, although still only twenty nine years old. Whilst trying to come to terms with what she wants to do with the rest of her life, she takes a job as a tutor. The position is at a beach house in New Hampshire the summer home of Mark and Anna Edwards, where her job is to coach their daughter Julie for her final year at school. Sydney neither feels like a servant or a member of the family, as Anna and Edward both regard her in a completely different manner. I was never completely sure either how Julie regarded Sydney. The dynamic of the household is changed completely when the two older sons, Jeff and Ben arrive to spend their summer at the beach house. It is their arrival that defines all that happens from then on. At times the plot felt a little disjointed, maybe as it concentrates on the emotions of the characters rather than the particular episodes.  

At one time during the novel Sydney reminisces on the history of the house, which confirmed my thoughts that this is the very same beach house mentioned in the earlier novels, The Pilot's Wife, Fortune's Rocks and Sea Glass.  A clever touch to choose to have a house rather a person as a recurring theme. Sydney feels that in comparison to the past history of the house, that what has happened to her there is inconsequential, compared to plane crashes, murder, unwed mothers and a war.

It is not a fast paced novel but that is normal for Anita Shreve’s emotional style as is the the way that she leaves us at the end of the novel with not all our questions answered.

An enjoyable read and as some of you correctly guessed the favourite of the selection I read while travelling recently.


Profile photoAnita Shreve

Anita Shreve is a Goodreads author I have reposted some of her profile information here, but if you want to learn more do visit Goodreads or her Official Website.

Anita Shreve Author Profile – Goodreads

Anita was born on January 01, 1946 in The United States and she grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favourites) and everything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. "I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never."
Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with re


  1. I'm never quite sure if I like Anita Shreve's books or not. I think I have only read one...and even that one I'm not sure if I've I'm probably not best-placed to have an opinion, am I?!!

    Certainly, the one I tried reading, I didn't 'click' with it. It was pleasant enough but nothing that grabbed me in any way.


  2. I've only read one of Anita Shreve's books and I can't remember what it was called now, so it couldn't have made that much of an impression on me! I have just finished reading Amenable Women by Mavis Cheek, which was our Book Club read for this month, and as I'm actually ahead of myself for once, I am having the chance to read one of my Christmas books, which I only started last night, but I know I shall enjoy it. It's called Separate Beds by Elizabeth Buchan. That was a good Review about Body Surfing.

  3. Very nice, review. Many of my friends like Anita Shreve and I have tried a couple of her books. I didn't dislike them but they didn't stay with me either. A book I recently read that I liked very much was "The Pursuit of Happiness" by Douglas Kennedy. The author is from "your neck of the woods"...a Brit and it is the first of his I have ever read. I think they are new to the US.

  4. Great review Lindy. Haven't read any of the books by this author but must try some. Please suggest which one should I pick first?

  5. Sarah@ I have not exactly read that many of her books either, pleasant read is about all I recall and the settings which is why I was so intrigued about her using the beach house again.

    Thisisme@ responses here all seem very similar with regards to our opinions, pleasant enough. Responding direct re the rest of your comment.

    Patricia@ another similar view. My sister introduced me to Douglas Kennedy's writing a few years ago and I have read two with two more on Mt TBR, but not the title you mention. I will add it to my wishlist.

    Vibha@ Well I always prefer to start with an author's earlier work, apart from this advice I am afraid I cannot suggest which would be best to start with.

  6. This is an Anita Shreve book I've never heard of...must add it to my TBR list!

  7. Ms.Dawn I hope you do as it is worth reading if you are a fan of her novels, thankyou for calling by and commenting.


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