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Strange Fits of Passion

Strange Fits of Passion

4.2 46
by Anita Shreve

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The reader is left to uncover the truth in this labryinth of a tale, a riveting story told within the framework of one reporter's notes and a woman's letters from prison. Everyone believes that Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York City journalists, have a happy, stable marriage. It's the early '70s and no one discusses or even suspects


The reader is left to uncover the truth in this labryinth of a tale, a riveting story told within the framework of one reporter's notes and a woman's letters from prison. Everyone believes that Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York City journalists, have a happy, stable marriage. It's the early '70s and no one discusses or even suspects domestic abuse. But after Maureen suffers another brutal beating, she flees New York with her infant daughter and seeks refuge in a small coastal town in Maine. The weeks pass slowly, and just as Maureen begins to heal physically and emotionally, Harrold finds her, bringing the story to a violent, unforgettable end.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As she did in her first novel, Eden Close , Shreve opens this absorbing story with oblique hints of a violent event--here a murder committed by a woman in response to domestic abuse--then segues to flashbacks that slowly reveal the circumstances leading up to it. A reporter who wrote a book about the crime shares her notes, presented in alternating versions and voices. Most affecting is the voice of the accused woman, who flees Manhattan with her six-month-old daughter to seek sanctuary in a coastal Maine village where she is protected by the clannish but sympathetic townspeople. She finds temporary solace in an affair with a sensitive lobsterman, but is betrayed to her husband by another man out of jealousy. Shreve is particularly effective in evoking the landscape and atmosphere of a close-knit community and the authentic vernacular of its nicely differentiated inhabitants. Her elegiac, portentous prose provides effective pacing. The novel's main drawback, however, lies in its predictability, and in the lack of credibility for the heroine's violent act, faults Shreve somewhat overcomes by raising the question of journalistic integrity (did the reporter alter her notes?) and the possibility that the accused woman's account might have contained deliberate falsehoods. In spite of its superficialities, however, the novel is often insightful and moving. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Thrilling and finely written . . . Ms. Shreve renders the beleaguered woman's voice, and the voices of other townspeople, with the arresting clarity we ask of all good writing."-The New Yorker

"Shreve's prose is clear and compassionate, and her message moving."-The Washington Post Book World

"Superbly rendered . . . both touching and troubling. The box-within-a-box structure moves Shreve's subtle and searing book beyond the contemporary horror genre. It creates a kind of double novel."-Cosmopolitan

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:

Meet the Author

Anita Shreve is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Fortune's Rocks, The Pilot's Wife, The Weight of Water, Resistance, Eden Close, and Where or When. She teaches at Amherst College and lives in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

Brief Biography

New Hampshire; Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
B.A., Tufts University

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Strange Fits of Passion 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shreve has done it again... Astonishment and amazement will surround you in this very descriptive tale of marital vicissitude. The characters are superbly developed and the tale is quite realistic. If you have a penchant for suspense and turbulence, this is your stop to read the best. Bravo...
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is books like these that make you think twice about judging someone else and the circumstances in which they live. This is an amazing book that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and you don't want to put down until you have read the very last page. I work with domestic violence victims, and this story rings true for all too many of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the second book by Shreve that I have read and haven't been able to put down. I finished the book in an afternoon sitting(even taking it to dinner). The characters are excellently developed and yet questions still remain about each one. I completely recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an 'I can't put it down' type of book. The story is compelling and sucks you in from the first page and all you can think about is what will happen next. Definately recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like many of her other books so picked this one on a whim and thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommend.
Kristen Wicks More than 1 year ago
one of my favorites by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anita Shreve never lets me down! This book has it all: spousal abuse, escape, forbidden lover, murder,& suicide! The title is from a Wordsworth poem, I googled it, read it & cried. I loved this book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all but 2 of Anita Shreve's books and they are all great. This one is because of topic is different than her others but she addresses the topic in such a tasteful way and as a woman you can feel nothing but compassion for Mary/Maureen. I would highly recommend this book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was hesitant to read about domestic abuse, but gave it a try because a friend said it was one of her favorites. This book is so well written. I usually begin reading a book in the store, buy it, begin the next chapter at home and it's boring, but that is not the case with this book!! It is very good! It will keep you interested.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the third book of hers i have read. I have trouble picking a favorite. She is a gifted writer. This story touched me in a way that most books dont. The attention to detail made me picture what she was going through. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Afer reading Strange Fits of Passion, it should become clear to everyone that you cannot judge someone, or their actions, until you have 'walked in their shoes'. There were several different courses of action that Mary/Maureen could have taken. I felt she did not seek outside help because whe had been conditioned to feel that she was not worthy of anything better. There is no reality, only perception, and Mary/Maureen acted out of her perception of the situation. This is definitely a book worth reading. It deals with a distasteful subject matter in as tasteful a way as possible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the last book of Shreve's that I read and I was surprised and delighted to find that I enjoyed it the most! It has a real sense of place - the description of the locality echoes in many ways the nature of the relationship described. It wasn't gruesome in it's description of the abuse, yet one could easily imagine and feel the horrors. After reading it, I got down the atlas to find out exactly where Maine is - not being from that side of the Atlantic!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The beginning already portends the tragic ending. But you are just drawn to the story because you want to understand why and how. You can't help but feel sorry for Mary/Maureen, and feel disappointed when others view her as the guilty one, someone cheap and sleezy who was at fault despite her husband's physical and mental abuse, and how others try to benefit from her story. In any case, the way Shreve writes about domestic violence and how a woman covers it up and seeks means to improve her life and state of mind is very compelling. Also, the manner in which it is written (interview transcripts so you can get a sense of other people's point of view of the situation) makes the story and characters come to life (and you realize modern fiction is salvaged by great writers such as Shreve who can make fiction feel almost real). You don't have to be a woman to appreciate this novel. In fact, I think both genders should read it in order to have a better understanding of the thoughts and feelings of someone who is being abused and doesn't know how to confront the problem to the point that he/she may go to 'extremes' for fear of his/her own life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. I first read Fortunes Rock whilst on holiday and rushed to the bookstore on my return to buy the rest of her books. I couldn't put this one down! Will be reading A Pilots Wife next!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anita Shreve is my new favorite author! I couldn't put this book down. Now I'm on line purchacing all of Anita's books that I haven't read yet. You GOTTA read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loaned to me by a friend to fill layover time in an airport-almost missed my flight. I could not stop reading. I finished this book within a 24 hour period...my only regret is that it was over. A'must read'. This was my introduction to Anita Shreve. She leaves you with a feeling that you want more...the story stayed with me...I can't shake it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read several of her books. Thought this was pretty good. It kept my interest from beginning to end.
anonomas More than 1 year ago
Wow.....just wow!
KPinBR More than 1 year ago
Interesting premis but missing in the delivery. The writing brings the community to life and uses an interesting approach to tell the story. The conclusion raises an interesting question about journalism but didn't deliver a real bang.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Touches your heart from the start! Love the characters! Didn't want it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago