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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 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 mysteriou…

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.