Publisher's Note:  

One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s.

Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have been accidental, or a suicide, or perhaps even murder. But after his death, instead of leaving the secluded college town to which he had brought her, she simply tries to go on with her life there. When her former mentor, who had also briefly been her lover—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her 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 who has written a novel that has become a literary sensation. She insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, and mysterious and frightening things start to happen as, unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman sets out to steal the truth of her life and the death of her husband so that she can plunder them for her next literary triumph.

Levinson’s richly crafted characters and his tautly drawn plot mark the debut of an exciting young talent.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Algonquin Books

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence

by David Samuel Levinson

Review Date:

Recommended Age:

Overall Rating:

Profanity / Language Rating:

Violence / Gore Rating:

Sex / Nudity Rating:

Overall Review:  

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence is the debut novel of David Samuel Levinson. It's set in a small college town in upstate New York in the nineties.


This is an accomplished book with believable characters and an interesting plot that moves at a good pace. It's a story about writers and writing and how much truth a writer can take from their lives (or here, crucially, the lives of others) and still call it fiction. 


The central character is Catherine Strayed, widow of Wyatt, a writer who never managed to get over a scathing review of his debut novel. Into her sleepy town enters Antonia Lively, a young successful novelist who it seems will do anything for a good story. Her much older lover is Henry, her former professor and famous literary critic. These three characters circle around each other and are slowly wound into a web of lies, the blurring of fact and fiction and the exposure of old painful secrets.


For a novel about writing, I feel a little more care could have been taken in the writing itself. I think this novel shows great promise but is in need of a little editing to tighten the slack. Overall, a gripping story and a good read.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  11 religious exclamations, 2 mild obscenities, 2 derogatory names, 1 anatomical term, 3 F-word derivatives.


Violence/Gore:  A character threatens another character with violence; a house is vandalized; a house burns down with no injuries to people; report that an animal has been killed; two fatal car accidents (both in the past, reported); a character accidentally shoots parent; a different character is accidentally shot by a friend; a woman is either attacked or passes out (she can't remember); a woman fires a gun (no injuries); a man grabs the neck of a woman; a brutal rape is reported.

Sex/Nudity:  Characters kiss; two men have a one night stand (reported); two descriptions of sex (very little detail); a teacher has an affair with an adult student; a woman sits on a man's lap; a brutal rape is reported.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Death of a family member, Divorce, Marriage infidelity, Rape, Homosexuality, Murder, Illegal drugs.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Characters drink wine and smoke tobacco throughout the book, sometimes with meals and friends, other times alone; two characters smoke marajuana.

Reviewed By Ailsa
No image available