Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Strength is In the Characterization

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

Adult Fiction

From reading the back and blurbs about the book, I really expected it to be much more exciting and thrilling than it was.  From the back of the book, it seems to be about a thrilling misadventure that changes a young woman's life and marriage.  That's certainly not my take on the book, but maybe it helps to sell more?

This book is really about a young woman and the slow dissolution of her marriage.  Margaret marries Patrick and then travels with him to Africa where he is conducting research on equatorial diseases.  Quite frankly, I questioned the marriage from the beginning.  It isn't the story of a love affair gone wrong, but a rather boring marriage gone completely off track.  Margaret has trouble adjusting to life in another country, especially one as brutal and hard as this one. Margaret can't find enough to fill her days and eventually finds a job, and a life, as a photographer.  This opens her up to different ideas and new people and leads to her questioning her way of life.  Central to this is a terrible tragedy that occurs during a hiking expedition and if I were being terribly literary, I could trace the symbolism of the accident and the couple's marriage.

It's a shame the book is marketed the way it is.  I think it's beautifully told and the strength of the story is in the crumbling marriage and Margaret's growing awareness of her self as a being separate from her husband in a way that reminds me of Chopin's "Awakening".  Shreve's style is very easy to read with a straightforward narrative that has the pages just skimming along.  I can't wait to pick up another of her books.

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