This is another high quality book from Anita Shreve with great characters and a gripping storyline. Maureen meets and falls in love with Harold and everything is wonderful and romantic and they get married, but gradually Harold becomes controlling and demanding and then violent towards Maureen. She initially believes his promises that the violence won’t be repeated, but then realises it will never stop and her only way of escaping him and being safe is to run away with their baby. She then begins to build a life for herself in a new area far away under the name of Mary, although she is timid and withdrawn and wary of trusting people.

The story is told (in the form of letters) by Maureen/Mary and (in the form of interviews) by the residents of the village she escaped to, with different chapters by different people. This style of alternated chapters works very well as the reader gets different viewpoints of the same situation, as well as the judgements the villagers have of Mary and she of them, and it is a great way to develop the story. The collection of viewpoints is gathered by a journalist who is aiming to tell the story of Maureen/Mary, and this feeling that facts are being elicited and recorded adds to the authentic tone of the novel.

This is a great story as the reader learns early on that Maureen/Mary is writing her story from a prison cell so we are therefore aware she has committed a crime and slightly know the end of the tale, but have to wait for the book to progress to find out the details of why and how it all happened. I think this is a very clever way of writing a story as it really builds the reader’s anticipation, and in this case also encourages a sense of foreboding as you are aware throughout her story that although Maureen/Mary has for a time escaped her past it must have inevitably caught up with her at some point for her to be in prison.

I like the form that Maureen/Mary adopts to tell her story; in a letter. I also like Maureen/Mary as a character, and therefore the passages describing how she suffered are quite hard to read (although thankfully not graphic).

The ending of the book still leaves the reader with questions and uncertainties over the true events of Maureen/Mary’s life, as there are doubts voiced in the court proceedings about her description of her marriage and whether this was actually what happened. I feel the time the book is set in, the 1970s, is important to the storyline as attitudes then about domestic violence were very different to attitudes now.

I very much enjoy Anita’s Shreve’s books and her writing style; the stories are not over-the-top dramatic and silly but are absolute page-turners. She really builds the characters up well and makes them believable individuals that you can care for. This was a gripping read and very difficult to put down.

Strange Fits Of Passion (Paperback)

By (author): Anita Shreve

Abacus Edition.
List Price: £9.99 GBP
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