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Body Surfing: A Novel Hardcover – April 24, 2007
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Once again, Shreve revisits the minefield of love and betrayal that she has explored so well in her best novels. Sydney is 29, twice married, once divorced, and once a widow. She is floundering, not sure she wants to go back to school, accepting whatever job comes along and then moving on. She answers the ad for a tutor and finds herself in the Edwards household, where she discovers that Julie has undiscovered artistic talent. Mrs. Edwards dislikes her instantly, is dismissive, and treats her like a servant. Mr. Edwards befriends her, shows her his roses and talks to her about the history of the house, giving the reader a rundown of the role the house has played in prior novels.
Sydney, Jeff, and Ben go body surfing late one night and Sydney is sure that Ben has tried to grope her underwater. She takes immediate umbrage at this and treats him coldly thereafter. Shreve's other work has a steady narrative flow, but this novel is episodic and disjointed. There is the the arrival of Jeff's girlfriend, her departure, an evening when Julie comes home drunk and won't talk about it, and a liaison between Sydney and Jeff which leads to the complications that eventually define the novel. There is a twist at the end, involving the brothers, that is divisive, destructive and rather hard to believe.
While this is not Shreve's best effort, because the characters are not well-defined, it is worth reading her take on what happens to people when they compete for love. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
July 17, 2007
Amazon Rating: 4/5 stars
Anita Shreve has to be one of my favorite authors, and BODY SURFING is yet another book I enjoyed immensely. It takes place in the same location as several of her previous books, notably FORTUNE'S ROCKS, and SEA GLASS. Compared to most of her other novels, BODY SURFING takes place in more contemporary times, so it has a different feel than the others. I wasn't sure I would enjoy this one because of it. However, I found that once I got into the story, I was enjoying it as much as I had FORTUNE'S ROCKS and SEA GLASS. Shreve has a wonderful way with words, and this book was no exception. It's what makes her books that much more of an experience.
29-year old Sydney is tutoring a young woman for the summer, a woman with a noticeable learning disability. She is slow, but her parents have high hopes that she will be able to further her education with some help from Sydney. Sydney is to live with the Edwards family, who are summering on the New Hampshire coast in a beach house, a very lovely location that plays as an important a part to the story as the characters do. Sydney's background is that she has been married twice now, and is at the age of 29 a widow. She is still trying to recover from the shock of losing her beloved husband, when she arrives at the summer home.
Not too long after she's moved in, the two grown sons also show up for the weekend. Ben and Jeff are two very different men. Jeff is a professor and Ben is in real estate. Sydney connects with Jeff, and finds herself pulled into his affections faster than she can blink an eye.Read more ›
BODY SURFING is the story of Sydney Sklar, recently widowed, who is tutoring eighteen-year-old Julie Edwards at a beach house in New Hampshire. Julie's older brothers visit and sparks ignite between Sydney and Jeff.
Now comes the trouble with spare writing: the reader SEES the various love affairs unfolding, but they're hard to fathom. The chemistry has to be taken on faith. The drawing of a finger along a thigh inspires sensual longing? An underwater touch in the dark is received with intractable revulsion? A distant swimmer in a wetsuit arouses a young girl's first sexual passion? We know it because the author tells us so, but it's all a bit abstract. Lives are changed by these minimal encounters but the reader doesn't feel the heat; the plot seems somehow under-explained.
The characters, too, are described by their actions, with interpretation laid on. Somehow you know they're as complex as anyone else but the narrative doesn't quite do that complexity justice. We might wonder why Mrs. Edwards ever thought a summer of tutoring would get her "slow" daughter into a Seven Sisters college; how an architect never came to discover that his daughter is gifted with artistic talent; why neither of them ever noticed that she was a lesbian. And as for Sydney, she seems strong, smart and kind, is already twice-married, yet she can't spot a cad when she sees one and instantly agrees to marry him, apparently because of the thigh-stroking mentioned above.Read more ›
I usually wrap another dust jacket over the book, something with "Success" or "Winning" in the title, but underneath the fake jacket I am unwrapping the lives, histories, and fates of complicated and compelling characters, and I often finish a Shreve novel in tears at the sheer power of her vivid and powerful descriptions of the turmoil within the human heart, at which point a flight attendant or a fellow passenger will ask if anything's wrong, and I usually reply, "These success/winning/business strategies are just so powerful (sniff)... I can bench 200 pounds."
"Body Surfing: A Novel" continues Shreve's chronicling of the relationships between people seemingly thrown together by chance but whose lives eventually become so intertwined that one feels Fate, or an omniscient author, has brought them together.
Sydney, a young woman escaping her own past, steps into the seemingly idyllic, New Hampshire seaside home of wealthy architect Mr. Edwards. The elegant, two-story, white clapboard house with the wraparound porch and mansard roof has become a recurring character in many of Shreve's novels, and here it serves as the repository of growing resentments, passions, and betrayals as Sydney becomes entangled in the Edwards family slow dissolution.
I fairly dissolved myself as I read of Sydney's growing attraction to one of the Edwards brothers and the bitter actions of the other, all leading to a climax that left me, dare I say it, body surfing--on a wave of overwhelming emotions and uncontrollable feelings.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I hate to give up on a book so I finished it, despite feeling frustrated from about 1/3 in. I felt like I was able to guess every event before it happened... Read morePublished 1 month ago by tiggerteacher
Amazing descriptions of the feel of the ocean and it's changing personality. Contrasting the feel and changes of the Edwards family with nature made for an as amazing read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Judy Ann Ho Ching
Though our protagonist is ostensibly soulful and suffering as the result of a divorce from one husband and death of another by the age of twenty nine, I found her a bit petulant... Read morePublished 1 month ago by mcfin din
Lots of twists & turns in this story. Well written; interesting characters. Great read!Published 2 months ago by Katlvr
The best part was when the father told main character the history of the house. It tied each book together. I enjoy Anita Shreve very much, but this one not at the top of my list.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
I love Shreve's writing, particularly The Pilot's Wife and Testimony. But this book was so boring and slow. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Christine P.