Before Testimony, the only other Anita Shreve novel I had read was The Pilot’s Wife, which I liked, but didn’t really love. Testimony, on the other hand, left me feeling disgusted with it’s tale of sexual misadventure at a New England boarding school, the tragic events that set the story in motion and the fallout for all those involved.
The narrative begins with Mike Bordwin, Headmaster of Avery Academy, who has received a videotape which shows three male students and a 14-year-old Freshman girl, involved in graphic sex in an Avery dorm room. The unfolding events are told through myriad narrators, each of whom offer their remembrances of and involvement in the scandal, which eventually leads to suspensions, arrests, firings, divorces, and death, within the school itself and in the surrounding community.
I should probably offer a *Trigger Warning* at this point because I feel the need to discuss some of the awkward contrivances Shreve places in the story, all of which made me cringe inwardly as she attempted to make readers feel sorry for the “boys” involved and to place all the blame on the jezebel.
Mrs Smith Reads Testimony by Anita Shreve
While I wouldn’t consider Anita Shreve one of my go-to authors, I have enjoyed the novels I’ve read by her, which are Testimony and The Pilot’s Wife. As a result, after I read a positive review for this by another CBR V participant, I certainly made a note of it, and picked it up while at the bookstore. This novel was actually shortlisted for the former Orange Prize in 1998, and has since been made into a movie by Kathryn Bigelow. Having now completed it, I would have to say I prefer the other two of her novels that I have read, though this wasn’t a bad novel. It just wasn’t quite what I wanted at the time I read it.
Read the rest of my thoughts here. It’s probably more of 2.5 than a 2.
The Weight of Water simultaneously follows the story of a real-life murder in late 1800s New Hampshire and Jean, a photojournalist who is doing a story on the murders. Shreve bounces back and forth between Jean’s present-tense narrative of her journey to the island of Smuttynose where the murders took place, and a letter written by Maren, the sole survivor of the brutal killings, on the eve of her death in 1899.