Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Testimony by Anita Shreve

As a fan of Anita Shreve I have to admit that I was a little disappointed by her latest novel. Testimony is the story of how a seemingly isolated event at a private school can ruin the lives of everyone associated it with it. Those involved include: the headmaster, three basketball players, the alleged “victim”, the parents of all the students involved, the wife of the headmaster, the headmaster’s replacement, a reporter, etc. While it’s admirable of Shreve to try and show us what happened, how it happened, and why it happened from so many different perspectives, the end result is a disjointed novel. Each chapter jumped around from voice to voice and it took me a while to get “in character” and remember what had happened to that particular character up to that point. The characters themselves ended up being too one dimensional.

The “what” and “how” is easy: one night, after a dance and too much to drink, three boys and a girl go back to one of the boys’ dorms and engage in sexual acts. It is the “why” that we don’t find out till the very end. And that left me with some questions. It was entirely too anticlimactic and it also didn’t ring true. The book focuses on one boy in particular and what leads him to that dorm room. His reasons just felt, for lack of a better word, lame. I had a hard time believing that what he learned would lead him to lash out the way he did. Maybe if Shreve hadn’t spent so much time writing about inconsequential characters, she would have had time to develop this one (Silas) so that I could believe in his reaction.

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