Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: Testimony

Summary: At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions. -- Little, Brown and Co.

I received an ARC of TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve a few months ago, and I just put it on my huge stack of books. I have read a lot of Ms. Shreve's books (even a few for my book club); and for the most part, I have enjoyed them. So I'm not really sure why I didn't get around to reading this one until now. But after reading so many good reviews, I decided to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about. WOW! Now I know! I was totally mesmerized with this story and the characters, and I couldn't put this book down.

Needless to say, I was drawn into the story of a sex scandal at a New England private boarding school from the very first chapter. I thought it was brilliant how Ms. Shreve told this story. Each chapter was written from a different character's point of view. Not only did this method allow the reader to get to know and understand lots of different characters in this story, but it was so perfect for allowing the reader to see how many people were affected by this one event.

I thought Ms. Shreve did an excellent job of developing all of the characters in this novel. Without a doubt, there were many lives that were changed forever (and maybe even destroyed) as the result of this scandal. I was fascinated by the characters' insights and reactions following this event, but I was even more amazed to learn some of the things that preceded the incident. I loved how Ms. Shreve alternated between current day and flashbacks to tell this story. And, I thought how she decided to reveal the mysteries was intriguing.

I also found it very interesting that Ms. Shreve chose to tell this story from the viewpoints of the various characters involved -- some of the chapters were written in first person narrative while others were written in third person (and one character's chapters were in second person.) I'd love to ask the author her reasons for writing the novel this way. For me, I found that I didn't relate near as well to those characters that were written from the third person point of view -- I'm sure that was on purpose. While I couldn't help but feel pity on some level for most of the characters in this novel, I have to admit that some of the characters were certainly harder to like than others -- most notable the headmaster and the "victim."

As I read this book, I just had this feeling that there was going to be something awful occur as a result of the sex scandal. The author refers to some failed marriages, but I had a sick feeling in the pit my stomach that there was another bigger tragedy in this book. I think that was probably a huge reason why I couldn't stop reading this book. Even though I "knew" something terrible was going to happen, I had to find out what it was. As I read the book and could see where it was going, I was just devastated by how far this sex scandal reached.

TESTIMONY would be the perfect book to discuss with friends. There is a reading group guide with lots of terrific discussion topics. There is also an excerpt you can read from the first chapter, and you'll see what I mean about getting hooked right away. Trust me -- there is just so much to talk about with this book. Personally, I would find it fascinating to discuss Ms. Shreve's writing style and her decisions about the characters, but I also would be curious to hear what others think about the short-term as well as the long-lasting effects of this incident. Some of the themes that you could also look at include friendship, love, desire, passion, forgiveness, and redemption. You should definitely consider reading this for your next book club, or at the very least, reading it for yourself!

Also reviewed at:
Literarily
Savvy Verse and Wit

7 comments:

Jill said...

Great review...I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I did too...had a hard time putting it down.

Julie said...

I just bought this because of who wrote it and well it seemed like an interesting story. Glad to know it'll live up to my preconcieved notions.

bermudaonion said...

This book was disturbing, but I really liked it a lot.

Serena said...

This is one of shreve's best. I've reviewed this as well here:
http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com/2008/10/testimony-by-anita-shreve.html

I just loved all of the themes in this novel and shreve is masterful in her craft...creating unique and lasting characters. I always love her stories, particularly the ones told by different points of view.

dawn said...

*Testimony* is in my TBR stack. I hope I have the same "what was I waiting for?!?" reaction when I read it - thanks for the review.

Anna said...

I just received this book last week, and I can't wait until I have time to read it. I love Anita Shreve, and I've been seeing great reviews of this book!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

S. Krishna said...

I thought this one was really good as well!