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Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

David Samuel Levinson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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How to Start a Fire
Anna, Kate and Georgiana have been bosom buddies since their salad days at University of California at Santa Cruz: This novel follows the three adventurous women into middle age. Read about the author, Lisa Lutz

Book Description

  Catherine Strayed is living a quiet, un?remarkable life in a secluded college town following the mysterious death of her husband, a promising writer whose death may have been an accident, a suicide, or perhaps even a murder. When her former mentor (and onetime lover)—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her late husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively. Antonia’s debut novel has become a literary sensation—but it is, in fact, an almost factual retelling of ?a terrible crime that she relates without ?any concern for the impact its publication will have on the lives of those involved.
  As Antonia insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, mysterious and frightening things start to happen, because unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman intends to plunder her own dark, regrettable past—and the unsolved death of her husband—for her next literary triumph.

  Provocative and cunning, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence asserts that fiction is never truly fictional and asks, What does stealing another’s life do to your soul? Levinson spins a tale of surprises, peeling back one revelation only to find another in this tightly wrought, wickedly cynical look at the worlds of academia, publishing, and celebrity. 

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Winslow, an upstate New York college town, is the setting for the unlikely goings-on in this first novel. Catherine is the widowed wife of author Wyatt Strayed, who mysteriously died in a car accident. She implausibly rents out the cottage behind her home to a former mentor (and lover), the literary critic Henry Swallow, who devastatingly reviewed Wyatt’s only novel. He has come to Winslow to run the college’s writing program, having left a previous position due to a sexual scandal. Swallow is in the midst of an affair with his protégée, the promising young writer Antonia Lively, who is writing her second novel, which, Swallow discovers, is to be based on details of his life. Along the way, Levinson offers his take on the nature of fact and literary fiction, on authorial ruthlessness, and on publishing in the ’90s. He seeks to establish an atmosphere of menace, but there are too many writers (as well as secondary characters, including Antonia’s father and uncle, and Catherine’s friends) and far too many dubious coincidences for a small town (or the reader’s credulity) to sustain. Thus, the ending, though clever and unexpected, lacks impact. --Mark Levine


"Some great melodramatic scenes, full of delicious prose." -- Entertainment Weekly, Summer Musts Issue

"A sleepy town, charming on the surface, conceal a nest of vipers in David Samuel Levinson's novel Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence. Sharpened by plot swerves and an undercurrent of violence, this intelligent psychological thriller exudes the aplomb associated with Patricia Highsmith." -- Lisa Dierbeck, Interview Magazine

"David Samuel Levinson's book about a widowed woman in a small town, her former paramour, and a writer embroiled in a real-life crime begs the question of whether there is always truth to fiction. Engaging, Gothic-style storytelling makes even small moments seem monumental." --

"I liked the bookish aspect, the talk about literature and the fact that most of the key characters were connected in some way to books or writing. And, the surprise ending actually did surprise me..." -- Bookfoolery

"Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence is a smart, page-turning genre bender. With his concern for honest characters, consistent but with the real capability to surprise, and his clever plot twists, Levinson keeps the reader wonderfully unsure. Because just when everything seems clear and simple, and all the strings have been tied up, Mr. Levinson refuses the easy way out, and instead drops another piece of key backstory. His ability to time such reveals is testament to his patient, disciplined writing and makes this debut novel decidedly a welcome one." -- Andrew Agudo, Everyday Ebook

"What we have here is a work of literary suspense set in academia with side stories about publishing and love affairs. That's, like, all of my kryptonites in one place, you guys." --Bookriot

"Highly, highly recommended for book clubs and lovers of fiction. This is real storytelling and a compelling plot." -- Texas Library Association

"Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence 
is a spellbinding debut novel with an important takeaway: beware of friendly, young novelists." -- Alvah Books

"If you're a lover of the written word and enjoy wonderful atmosphere and well-drawn characters, then you should pick up Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence immediately. Levinson perfectly captures the academic, small college town life, and readers will find themselves fully absorbed by this literary mystery." -- Swapna Krishna,

"A fast-paced page-turner set in upstate New York, this novel holds murder, mystery and psychological suspense." -- The Denver Post

Product Details

  • File Size: 464 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1565129180
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (June 4, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,285 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, confusing plot February 20, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Mr. Levinson's writing is beautiful. He captures the ennui and inbred quality of a small college town. I couldn't put it down, but I also didn't get it. I didn't get why Catherine did the things she did, clearly adrift after her husbands death, she is passive and unlikeable. I didn't understand why Antonia Lively was even interested in Wyatts story, or why her father and uncle were after her. It didn't make sense that Catherine invited Henry, a man she hated, to live in her cottage. The book raises questions about writing and an author's responsibility, but in the end I didn't get what Antonia did that was so wrong, why Henry did what he did to her, or why anyone at all liked Catherine.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Do we have sole possession of our lives and what happens in them, or are they fodder for artists? That is a question David Samuel Levinson seeks to answer in his intriguing but ultimately frustrating novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence.

In Winslow, a small college town in upstate New York, Catherine Strayed continues to mourn the mysterious death of her writer husband, Wyatt. No one is sure whether his death was an accident, a suicide, or a murder, but he left their house one morning, ostensibly to get groceries, and never returned. Catherine's questions about Wyatt's death--as well as his life, frustratingly unhappy because of the failure of his first novel after a savage review by an influential critic--drag her down and plague her days.

Catherine's attempts to move her life forward following Wyatt's death are complicated by the constant presence of Henry Swallow, the literary critic who essentially ended Wyatt's career before it got started. Henry took a position as Wyatt's boss at Winslow College shortly before his death. Beyond the fact that Catherine blames Henry, the two share a history, as he was her former mentor and lover.

Henry's newest protegé, Antonia Lively, has also come to town. Young Antonia (significantly Henry's junior) is the toast of the literary world with the publication of her first novel, which Henry championed. But what Henry doesn't know is that Antonia's novel is essentially a retelling of an incident she was told about, a incident with ramifications on many people in her life, but Antonia doesn't care about the damage this story may inflict.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of the Story August 2, 2013
The heart of David Samuel Levinson's first novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, is the lure of a story and the conflicting points of view of participants and observers. Each character sees the story in a different light influenced by conscious and unconscious memories. The characters who want to write the story must choose between a memoir and a novel, descriptions including their own views or fiction that keeps them out of the story. Either way, the writers believe that their own take on the story is the most important one. That means that in the competition for each story there is only one victorious writer. What is the payoff for the victory? Is fame and fortune of publication worth the enmity of the vanquished competitor?

Some people may want to give their story to someone to write it (or withhold it)and do not want fame and fortune. They may give or take their stories with motives of redemption and revenge. Characters who do/do not want the story released to the public attempt to prevent the writers from knowing the real details, blocking access to the heart of the narrative.

The memoir gives access to real people in a definite presentation while the novel allows the writer to imagine characters indefinitely. The skill of the writer is to include herself honestly in the realism of the memoir or keep herself completely out of the impressionism of the novel.

In this context, Mr. Levinson creates interesting characters attending to three stories, two from the past already published and one evolving with the characters' interactions. Is it acceptable for a writer to deceive others in life to obtain their story, like a journalist, then write it without including herself in the narrative?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This fast-paced literary thriller pulled me in from the start. The storyline is intriguing and ingenious. As a dangerous past encroaches on a bucolic campus, the tension here isn't just that of a routine thriller. This novel is about truth-telling and lies in both life and fiction. Larger issues of honesty, integrity and ambition in the literary world--and by extension in life--resonant throughout a well drawn, fast-paced story. Not an easy accomplishment to weave a good plot with deeper themes:I would recommend this book highly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply absorbing literary mystery June 12, 2013
Levinson's writing is a dream--lush, cunning, and full of finely crafted characters and carefully placed plot twists that go off like bombs. Whom to root for, who you think is crazy, and what really happened are elusive ideas that shift by the moment in this gripping thriller focused on the literary life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A very creditable first effort
Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence is David Samuel Levinson's first novel (He published an earlier collection of short stories, Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Wally Wood
4.0 out of 5 stars Is This How Writers Work?
Catherine, the widow of a college professor and novelist, is gradually putting herself back together in a small college town in New York. Read more
Published 7 months ago by The Big Breeze
5.0 out of 5 stars If I could pay more to the author as a tip, I would.
I read this book in two days. It's a page turner to say the least. The plot is complex and constantly unraveling, the characters are vivid and alive, and the themes are very... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Journey-Bound
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that really grabs your interest the further you get into it
The book starts out kind of rough in the first chapter or so. But then the author starts weaving together an intricate love triangle that involves the lives of authors. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Keith Sinders
4.0 out of 5 stars Complicated, Plot-Twisting Novel
College towns in the summer are different. Without the students there, the town sleeps and stirs lazily. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Sandra Kirkland
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure tale and literary & writing programs criticism.
I know the author. It was a gripping book. Hard to put down. Nice surprises in the plots but also narrowed in on false fame.
Published 22 months ago by Olive Ayhens
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, gripping atmospheric novel
In this novel, Levinson excels at capturing the feeling of life in a small college town, and creates rich, intriguing characters who have a complex set of inter-relations. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Seth Patucket
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal story telling.
I enjoyed every character in this well written novel, but it was the ending that rocked me. David S Levinson knows how to write a tale. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Irvin Kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile
Set in a small liberal arts college in New York state, this is a debut novel about an intriguing mystery with a complex set of engaging characters. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Pat
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and Intricate
I decided to pick this up after reading a positive review in EW, and I must say that it is once of the most satisfying reads I have had in a long while. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Andrej François Zhilov
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