Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Testimony by Anita Shreve



I really didn't like this one either...I'm sort of on a roll here! And not a happy one!

This is the story of a horrible sex scandal at a small private Vermont school. The events were videotaped, posted on the internet and handed over to the headmaster. And lives are forever changed - three marriages destroyed, high school prospects evaporated and a life ended.

As one of the characters described...this is a story of doors. As the characters proceed from door to door - opening one after the other - there is no going back.

But, Shreve tells this story through 20 different narrators and not in chronological order. The opening chapter is the moment the headmaster watches the tape...from there it travels ahead two years to a researcher interviewing the main characters. The tale moves back and forth through time and through voices until the final chapters tie all the loose ends together.

So...
>the plot is incredibly depressing - especially if you are the parent of a teenager, work with teenagers or have any connection whatsoever with teenagers. these are the supposedly good kids in the school
>the story ignores conventions of narrator and time

There are redeeming moments...through out the entire book you read about a researcher seeking information about the events. The researcher is never identified. Just like the person holding the video camera is never revealed. Instead these two pay silent testimony to the events that unfolded around them - knowing all the sides, hearing all the secret details and sharing nothing. I sort of liked that.

There is also a sweet love story between two of the main characters - Silas and Noelle. It is innocent in a way that is in stark contrast to the events that open the tale. Silas is clearly two different people and it is only in the very end that you find out exactly why...why he cracked and why he opened a door that Noelle could not go through. That is really the only why that the reader discovers though.

The story is also about all the sides of a scandal. You hear from the main characters but you also hear from the fringe players - those who floated on the edges and reacted to the events. There were so many moments when the course of the event could have been changed - so many people who could have made a difference. But, when you hear their voices you realize the inevitability of this event.

Weighing the pros and the cons...

I wouldn't recommend it very strongly. It sort of reminds me of John Green's Saving Alaska. But much darker and more depressing - hearing from the adults somehow makes it even sadder!!!

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