Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't bother making this climb

When I blogged about Anita Shreve's "Testimony" back in January, I said she'd cemented her status as one of my favorites.
But I was disappointed in "A Change in Altitude" (ISBN 9780316020701).
I'm not saying I won't pick up her next work, but I wanted to be drawn to Margaret and Patrick, newlyweds on their own in Africa, and I wasn't.
The two are in Kenya because of Patrick's work as a doctor. Early on, they meet up with the wealthy Arthur and Diana and join their trek up Mount Kenya.
A horrific accident on the journey has the couple questioning their relationship.
I wondered why they hooked up in the first place. They don't seem to communicate, they don't seem to have much in common and they don't seem to share a plan for the future.
As Shreve notes on their climb:
"If there had been a distance between Margaret and the others during the easy part of the climb the day before, the distance increased exponentially. ... Patrick did occasionally wait for Margaret to check that she was okay, but even when she told him, "This is pure hell," he nodded in agreement and then, as if he were captive to his feet, went on ahead of her."
She is describing their marriage as well.
So it was hard to work up much energy to care if they saved their relationship.
Shreve's descriptions of Africa both the beauty of its landscapes and the despair of its slums were well-crafted, but not enough to keep me invested.

- Tricia Ambrose

P.S. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I win a collection of Penguin books and a tote bag for my pick of "The Odyssey" in the giveaway Jason alerted us to in a recent post.

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