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Book Review

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…

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence

by David Samuel Levinson

Overall Book 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.

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

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.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

The book that I first remember reading by myself was Enid Blyton’s Five Go to Treasure Island which I found on a dusty bookshelf in my grandmother’s island home one summer when I was six. It was an old hardback copy, over an inch thick and I was enthralled, updating my friends daily on the story. Nothing much has changed; I am still obsessed with literature.