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Testimony Hardcover – October 21, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316059862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316059862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #866,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shreve's novels (Body Surfing; The Weight of Water) benefit from propulsive plots, and her mixed latest, with its timely theme of debauchery among children of privilege, does not lack in this regard. The first paragraph foreshadows a tragedy in which three marriages are destroyed, the lives of three students at a private school in Vermont are ruined, and death claims an innocent victim. The precipitating event is a sex tape involving three members of the boys' basketball team and a freshman girl. Beginning with an account of the debacle by the Avery School's then headmaster, and segueing to the voices of the participants in the orgy, plus their parents and others touched by the scandal, the narrative explores the widening consequences of a single event. Shreve's character delineation is astute, and the novel's moral questions—ranging from the boys' behavior to the headmaster's breach of legal ethics to the guilt of those involved in the death—are salient if heavy-handed, while the female characters are wicked in the way women have always been stereotypically portrayed. The novel is clever, but the revolving cast of narrators often feels predictable and forced, keeping the novel on the near side of credible. (Oct.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Most reviewers hailed Testimony as a deft, insightful exploration into the tragic, far-ranging effects of a single night. Yet critics diverged on a number of points. Some thought that Shreve's diverse perspectives made the sex scandal and other characters' plights, such as those of the guilt-ridden adults, more immediate. But a few claimed that the fractured narrative distracted from examining the morally gray situation more fully and decreased the overall emotional impact. Character development similarly raised questions. As the reviewer from Los Angeles Times noted, the girl on the tape—portrayed more as vixen than victim—"is Shreve's missed opportunity for an exploration of what drives young girls toward promiscuity." In the end, however, Testimony—like Shreve's other novels—is not always enjoyable, but it's impossible to put down.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Customer Reviews

This will probably be one of those books I think about for a long time, and it makes me want to read more by her.
DRob
That being said, I almost felt like the book was a little too short, and that the story could have been fleshed out a bit more.
Kim B.
This truly is a compelling story that is told in a unique style that alternates between all of the characters in the book.
Redlady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

134 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Maudeen Wachsmith VINE VOICE on October 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Anita Shreve never plays it safe with her books and her latest, Testimony, is no exception.

Avery Academy is a small private school in Vermont. Everyone who attends has been carefully screened and selected to attend. From the rich young freshmen to the athletic seniors tapped for college play; no one attends Avery Academy by chance.

But for Avery Academy, all is not as it seems from outside its gates. Parties, which include alcohol and drugs, still occur and kids still get in trouble. This sets the scene for a horrible sex scandal from which no one will come out unscathed, not the students, not the parents, not the headmaster of the school; and not even the citizens of the town of Avery who don't even usually pay too much attention to what goes on behind the hallowed gates up on the hill just out of town. Parents find that even though they pay for the best education for their children, send them to the best schools available, they still can't protect them. Adults find that passionate desires can have far-reaching effects that can change lives forever.

Told from multiple points of view (I counted 20) in less talented hands the narration could get confusing. But with Shreve, it did not. Perhaps that was because with over a dozen of these narrators we only hear from them once or twice.

However the story essentially belongs to three people: Mike, the headmaster of the school who we get to know the best, and Silas and Noelle, the two star-crossed lovers; Silas the basketball star, the local boy made good, son of average farmers from the town of Avery and Noelle, the talented musician destined for Julliard. As the story of the events of that one evening of sex and alcohol unfolds it is becomes clear that Silas stands to lose it all.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A firestorm erupts when a dormitory parent confiscates a tape in which three boys engage in intimate acts with a fourteen-year-old girl at a private school. The young people who appear in the tape attend Avery Academy in Vermont. Anita Shreve's "Testimony" examines this incident from every possible angle, using a Rashomon-like approach. She demonstrates how difficult it is to learn the truth when various witnesses offer conflicting opinions about what happened and who should bear the responsibility.

Mike Bordwin, the headmaster of Avery Academy, is shocked when he views the tape and sees Robert Leicht, and Silas Quinney, both eighteen, and James Robles, nineteen, behaving inappropriately with a pretty young freshman after an evening of heavy drinking. The author provides many perspectives besides Bordwin's, including those of the participants, the parents, Silas's girlfriend, a newspaper reporter, a roommate of the victim, a police officer, a cafeteria worker, an ER nurse, the dean of students, and a law professor. It soon becomes apparent that the story changes according to who tells it, and that there is plenty of blame to go around.

Using a straightforward and powerful prose style, Anita Shreve explores a number of thought-provoking and timely themes: The abuse of alcohol among young people is "starting at an earlier age and [is] both more habitual and more intense that it had been just a decade before"; students who attend private schools and who are athletically talented may behave recklessly because they feel "privileged"; when reporters grab hold of a scandalous story, they often transform a human tragedy into a media circus; our misdeeds may destroy not only our lives but also those of our friends and family. "Testimony" is a searing and powerful indictment of a society that, in many ways, has lost its moral compass, and for that, everyone pays a price.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Victoria J. Livingston on May 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm a diehard fan of Anita Shreeve, and this book kept my rapt attention and I consider it one of her finest.
It's about a sex scandal at a private high school in New England and shows how one event can seriously alter the path of one's life--in fact, this event devastated many lives. One learns of a videotape early on in the book, but the sex scenes are tastefully depicted.
What I found interesting is that at least one of the boys involved is a very sympathetic character and the girl, who one might assume to be the victim, is depicted as manipulative and callous. I certainly could feel for the mother whose son committed suicide (we know this up front--in the beginning we know this even will ruin many lives, we're just not sure who and how).
As a writer, I found it curious that she mixes up point of view--first, third and even second, which is usually a no-no in writing; and she mixes up past and present tense. I was looking for a review to see what others thought about that. I assume she did it experimentally, and because she is a famous writer, she did it because she could. I found it to be a little disconcerting--the change of point of view and tense--but it did not detract from the story itself, which was quite riveting.
What I really like about her writing is that it's not just escape fiction. There is a message about how one event can serious change one's life--in this case, quite devastatingly. In a way, the book is about the negative consequences of sex--how teenage boys can be easily seduced and in another case, how an affair can damage lives, but it's not moralistic. I think it is very true that one event, one bad decision, can have a serious impact on people's lives.
I would definitely recommend the book. The characterization is rich. There are a variety of personalities and she's quite adept at getting inside the skin of each and every one.
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More About the Author

Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. "I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never."

Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejections from magazines for her short stories ("I really could have," she says), she published her early work in literary journals. One of these stories, "Past the Island, Drifting," won an O. Henry prize. Despite this accolade, she quickly learned that one couldn't make a living writing short fiction. Switching to journalism, Shreve traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived for three years, working as a journalist for an African magazine. One of her novels, The Last Time They Met, contains bits and pieces from her time in Africa.

Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 14 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot's Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, Body Surfing, Testimony,and A Change in Altitude.

In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. In 1999, she received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey, and The Pilot's Wife became the 25th selection of Oprah's Book Club and an international bestseller. In April 2002, CBS aired the film version of The Pilot's Wife, starring Christine Lahti, and in fall 2002, The Weight of Water, starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn, was released in movie theaters.

Still in love with the novel form, Shreve writes only in that genre. "The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming," she says. "A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike."

Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.

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