Format: Audio CD
Genre: General Fiction
Published: April 2007
Setting: New Hampshire
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Back of the Book Blurb:
At the age of 29, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed. Trying to regain her footing, she has answered an ad to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage. But when the Edwards’s two grown sons, Ben and Jeff, arrive at the beach house, Sydney finds herself caught up in a destructive web of old tensions and bitter divisions. As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened. With the subtle wit, lyrical language, and brilliant insight into the human heart that has led her to be called “an author at one with her metier” (Miami Herald), Shreve weaves a story about marriage, family, and the supreme courage it takes to love.
I really enjoyed this book very much, despite the fact that I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Anita Shreve. She is a really good writer, but her books so often have characters that are utterly infuriating, and it is really difficult to see beyond them to actually enjoy the story. This book is no exception, but (thankfully) Sydney Sklar, the protagonist, is a sympathetic character from the start, easy to like and easy to root for. Having a divorce behind her, and then having endured the unexpected death of her second husband, she is somewhat emotionally bruised when she comes to New Hampshire to tutor Julie. I appreciated her from the beginning, especially as she not only embraced her role as Julie’s tutor, but connected with her in a personal way as well. She was observant of Julie’s struggles and her abilities, and once she recognized what shewasable to do – and do exceptionally well – she tapped into it immediately, providing her with the supplies she needed and encouraging her to pursue it passionately.
It was hard not to fall a little in love with Mr. Edwards as Sydney did. He was a thoughtful, kind man who had a soft spot for his daughter, and for Sydney as well as their friendship blossomed over the summer. It was equally hard not to loathe Mrs. Edwards, and to wonder what exactly drew Mr. Edwards to her, because it was certainly evident that he loved her. She was unexplainably cold & distant to Sydney, from the very start, and as the summer progressed, with the dramas of relationships ending & beginning, her chilly attitude toward Sydney grew more pronounced. She offered such a shallow, pitiful explanation of this at the end that it left me a bit miffed that I, the reader, was deprived of any substantive reason why she behaved as she did.
Without completely giving away the plot, I will say that it was a brilliant move on Shreve’s part to have a number of unexpected circumstances occur throughout the novel. I loved that when I was expecting one thing, something just outside the box was happening instead. I also loved that the history of both the family and the house was a substantial part of the story, because it beautifully enhanced the reading experience.
In the end, this was an satisfying, enjoyable and nice crafted novel. I liked the balance of characters, and while I would have enjoyed having more character development in some cases, I thought the mix was exactly right for the book.