by Anita Shreve
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
In the beginning this book is almost everything I least like reading. It’s a historical love story set in 1899. If I hadn’t read any of Shreve’s books before I’d have given up then and there. I carried on reading about the affair between fifteen year old Olympia Biddeford and forty one year old married with four children John Haskell because I thought that Shreve must have something in mind other than a pure romance (or not-so-pure depending on which sense you apply pure in, I suppose).
And of course there was far more to this book than that but it took the author a long time to get there. The first two hundred pages of the book concern the romance and the trailing two hundred and fifty concern the long reaching after effects. It didn’t feel balanced to me though. The first part of the book dragged on and on and on as I put the book down endless times and wondered when something would happen. The second half of the book felt much shorter as a whirlwind of things rushed by me and I got ever so involved in Olympia’s life and didn’t want to put the book down.
It’s a book I’d hesitate to recommend because of how tedious I found the first half but the second half does more than make up for what I saw as the shortcomings of the first half and turns into a really interesting look at life and legality in a small coastal New England town in the early years of the last century.