Cover image for Strange fits of passion
Strange fits of passion
Shreve, Anita.
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San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
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The reader is left to uncover the truth in this Labryinth of a tale, a riveting story told within the framework of one reporter's notes and a woman's letters from prison.

Everyone believes that Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York City journalists, have a happy, stable marriage. It's the early '70s and no one discusses or even suspects domestic abuse. But after Maureen suffers another brutal beating, she flees New York with her infant daughter and seeks refuge in a small coastal town in Maine. The weeks pass slowly, and just as Maureen begins to heal physically and emotionally, Harrold finds her, bringing the story to a violent, unforgettable end.

Author Notes

Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts. After receiving a bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University, she taught high school English for five years before becoming a full-time author. She worked for an English-language magazine in Nairobi and wrote for everything from Cosmopolitan magazine to The New York Times. Her nonfiction books included Remaking Motherhood and Women Together, Women Alone. Her novels included Eden Close, Strange Fits of Passion, Where or When, Fortune's Rocks, Rescue, Stella Bain, and The Stars are Fire. Several of her books were made into movies including The Pilot's Wife, Resistance, and The Weight of Water. She died from cancer on March 29, 2018 at the age of 71.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A superbly crafted, intelligently written exploration of the complicities of an abusive relationship. A middle-aged, successful writer, whose career was made after she wrote a tantalizingly slanted article about an abused woman who murdered her husband, is compelled to visit the woman's daughter years later and to give the daughter all the notes from the story, many of them written by the murderer herself. As the daughter, Christine, begins to read, so do we, and the story of Maureen English's torment unfolds with a journalistic intensity. In alternating chapters, author Shreve presents interviews with the citizens of the small New England town where Maureen tried to hide from her husband, as well as Maureen's version of the events. The many voices are impressively distinct, and the points of view are always honestly presented. Hovering over the whole is the question of a journalist's integrity in piecing together the shattered bits of any story. This novel is as forcefully true in its depicting of a "real" situation in fiction as Susan Brownmiller's Waverly Place was in fictionalizing a true story. Highly recommended. ~--Eloise Kinney

Publisher's Weekly Review

As she did in her first novel, Eden Close , Shreve opens this absorbing story with oblique hints of a violent event--here a murder committed by a woman in response to domestic abuse--then segues to flashbacks that slowly reveal the circumstances leading up to it. A reporter who wrote a book about the crime shares her notes, presented in alternating versions and voices. Most affecting is the voice of the accused woman, who flees Manhattan with her six-month-old daughter to seek sanctuary in a coastal Maine village where she is protected by the clannish but sympathetic townspeople. She finds temporary solace in an affair with a sensitive lobsterman, but is betrayed to her husband by another man out of jealousy. Shreve is particularly effective in evoking the landscape and atmosphere of a close-knit community and the authentic vernacular of its nicely differentiated inhabitants. Her elegiac, portentous prose provides effective pacing. The novel's main drawback, however, lies in its predictability, and in the lack of credibility for the heroine's violent act, faults Shreve somewhat overcomes by raising the question of journalistic integrity (did the reporter alter her notes?) and the possibility that the accused woman's account might have contained deliberate falsehoods. In spite of its superficialities, however, the novel is often insightful and moving. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved