Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Body Surfing – Anita Shreve

Sydney is twenty-nine and has already been married twice, one marriage ended in divorce and the other in widowhood. Slowly, she is trying to put her life back together after the shocking and unexpected sudden death of her beloved Daniel.

During the summer of 2002 she takes on the job as tutor to Julie, the teenage daughter of Mr and Mrs Edwards. The family and Sydney are staying at their oceanfront cottage until September which is ideal as this enables Sydney to escape her former life in Boston in the hope that distance will help her work out what she wants to do with her future. From the start it is clear to Sydney that Julie is slow and no amount of tutoring will help her make progress. In spite of this the two become close and Sydney realises that Julie has a strong artistic bent and begins to encourage her talents.

Jeff and Ben are Mr and Mrs Edwards’ grown up sons. They meet Sydney for the first time during a weekend break at the cottage. Later in the summer they come back to join the family for a holiday in August. It is clear that Ben is fond of Sydney but it seems that Jeff has his eye on her too. So Sydney is drawn into the middle of a powerful web of old rivalries, tensions and family secrets.

This is a stunning piece of writing and I couldn’t put the book down. As only the second Anita Shreve book I have read it was no less intriguing or enjoyable than the first and it will not be the last. The style in which this story is written, its short, jagged paragraphs, is emotionally exhausting to read. The clever and witty use of language and brilliant insight into the human condition sets Anita Shreve’s work apart from most other authors writing in this genre. The descriptiveness of her words is mesmerising:

“….the sense of mission, the rhyming clacking of the rails, the fast receding lights in the distance….”

And this is just one line in the book but it describes a train journey so precisely.

"Sydney enters her room and is immediately overwhelmed by grief for Daniel..........She remembers their fit, her pale leg slipping between his two when they lay together after making love, as if their limbs had been deliberately fashioned for this purpose. The way Daniel would never cross a room without glancing at her face. The way he'd come home from his shift, drained, searching for her, room to room, only the sight of her allowing him access to normal life."

That sounds like love to me!

It is difficult to say more about this particular story without giving too much away so all I will say is, if you haven’t done so already, pick up this or any of Anita Shreve’s books. You will not be sorry.


  1. Ooh I've not read this one, brilliant review!

  2. Thank you, Dot. I am always so emotionally drained after reading Anita Shreve's books. She writes with such descriptive clarity I am instantly transported into the middle of her characters' world.
    Just had three more of her books delivered so I suppose you will be seeing more reviews of her work here in the not too distant future!