Thursday, October 1, 2009

150 - A Change in Altitude; Anita Shreve

 
Having read all of Anita Shreve's previous novels, I was anxious to begin her new book: A Change in Altitude

Set in the late 1970's, Margaret and PatricK McCoglan are a young married couple from Massachusetts who decide to spend a year in Africa. Patrick is a doctor who plans to do research on equatorial diseases, and will conduct free clinics around the country for those in need.

 In Africa, the couple meets Diana and Arthur, a British couple, who convinces them to climb Moun t Kenya with them. They will be accompanied by an expert guide. When a tragic accident occurs during the climb, the blame seems to be directed toward Margaret.  It is that event that causes Margaret to re-evaluate her marriage.

Aphoto journalist back in Boston, and now with lots of free time on her hands. She must learn the do's and don'ts of the culture where she now lives. At one point Margaret's camera is taken from her, as in Masai culture, women are not allowed any possessions. She is offered a job as a photographer with the Kenya Tribune, a controversial publication, which she accepts. Her first assignment is to cover a plane crash where people have died. It is through this job, and new relationships she has formed, that Margaret begins to see Africa, as well as her marriage in a new light. Before the year is out the couple decides to try and climb Mount Kenya once again in remembrance of the tragedy which occurred one year earlier.

My thoughts: The author did an amazing job making the reader feel a sense of place. Every part of Africa, was so vividly detailed. As a reader, I really enjoyed the author's writing style, her use of irony, metaphors and foreshadowing throughout the story. There were, however, things I did not like as well. None of the characters were likable, and although there was some action in the story, the novel just never had that "wow" effect. The book was easy to put down, and I never felt like I really cared about what happened next.


Having read ALL of this author's previous books, I ultimately was disappointed by A Change in Altitude.  My recommendation--if you are a huge Shreve fan "read it, and decide for yourself".  If you have never read this author before, try some of my favorites by Shreve:  Strange Fits of Passion, Eden Close, Resistance, or Testimony.  Each is a story that has stayed with me for a long time.

22 comments:

  1. Thanks for the honest review. I am a Shreve fan so I know I will be reading this one anyway. It's a bummer when one of your favorite authors just doesn't cut it for you.

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  2. oh no Diane! Thanks for your honest review.

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  3. I've only read one or two Shreve books and I always feel like I am going to like them but somehow they don't meet my expectations. I do have Testimony on my shelf and am looking forward to that one. I know it got a lot of great reviews so I'm hoping I'll enjoy it!

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  4. I read and reviewed this one, too. I ended up giving it five stars, but I can identify with your issues as well.

    I really didn't like the men in the book! They were sexist and their attitudes toward the women seemed...well, demeaning!

    Set in the 70s, though, as I recall, the prevailing attitudes at the time, despite efforts to make changes, were still...antediluvian!

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  5. I haven't read anything by this author. How does she compare to Jodi Picoult--or would that be like comparing apples to oranges?

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  6. It sounds interesting, but I'm not an Anita Shreve fan. But I do like reading about Africa!

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  7. Sorry this didn't work for you. I am a Shreve fan, though, so I still plan to give it a shot.

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  8. Too bad this one wasn't as good as you expected...I still haven't read Testimony, but hope to get to it soon. I wasn't crazy about Resistance, but really enjoyed Body Surfing.

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  9. The only book I have ever read by Shreve was Sea Glass. I wasn't really impressed with it, but I have heard that she has other books out there that are phenomenal. If I do decide to read another one of her books, it probably won't be this one. Thanks for the honest and succinct review, it makes it a bit easier for me to decide on my next Shreve book.

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  10. The only Shreve that I have ever read has was Sea Glass, and I was not too impressed with it. I have heard that she has other books that are phenomenal, so I am going to try something else, but it probably won't be this one. Thanks for the honest and succinct review, it really helps me weed out which ones I want to try.

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  11. I am really intrigued by the premise and the setting of this book and the fact that you said she creates a strong sense of place. I'd love to "travel" to Africa. :-) I am with you, though, on having difficulty enjoying a book of none of the characters are likeable. Characters can be very flawed, but there needs to be something there that makes me care.

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  12. I haven't read any Shreve so it sounds like this isn't the one I should start with :-) I have Testimony sitting on my TBR pile so I'll start with that one and see how it goes!

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  13. I read "Testimony" but didn't LOVE it. But I keep seeing her books around and the premises sound intriguing so thanks for the list of the ones you particularly liked.

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  14. You're dead on about her accuracy in providing a good sense of place. Otherwise, meh...not my favorite Shreve, either.

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  15. I haven't read any of Shreve's books. Thanks for the honest review!

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  16. I agree with you on this one Diane. It isn't one of Shreve's best at all. I'm a little over halfway finished with it but like you if I put it down, I'm not in any hurry to pick it up again.

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  17. What a well written review! I've read a few Shreve books and I usually like them. I don't know if I will read this one.

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  18. Thanks for the honest review. Anita Shreve writes on such a wide variety of topics and settings. Some have been real hits with me, others not so much. (I haven't yet read A CHANGE IN ATLTITUDE)

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  19. I have liked Shreve in the past and have Testimony to get to one of these days. I truly liked reading your review and to note what fell flat for you...I hate it when I don't care about the main characters.

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  20. I love Shreve, and I'm sorry to see you were disappointed by this one. I'll be reading it soon.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  21. I finished A Change in Altitude tonight, and decided to go to the internet to see if I was the only one who was left with an indifferent feeling after reading this novel.(I have read all but one of her books-and enjoyed each.) I agree completely with you and so many who responded to your review. I was interested to see that she had spent time in Kenya because I wondered if she had been there and "handy material" was the reason for writing it. Hope her next novel rates as high with many of us as her previous ones have.

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  22. I must admit I didn't even think she did that great a job conveying what it was like to live in Kenya (as you know from reading my review). I completely agree, however, that folks who are not familiar with Shreve should start elsewhere. Funnily enough, I haven't read any of the books you recommend other than Testimony, which I didn't like either!

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