Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer Beach Pick: Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence
by David Samuel Levinson
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
320 pages

Available June 4, 2013

Wondering what to pack in your beach tote? Sunglasses, sunscreen, a cold drink and this tasty and tempting new adult fiction novel.

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence has everything you could want in a novel: a twisty, turn-y plot with several torrid secrets about to be exposed, three writers and a few others whose lives and loves are intertwined, secret passions and simmering jealousy, latent contempt, and a career fall from grace, a secret affair, a suicide? or possible murder? and it's written with such finesse, the reader is immediately taken into the tale and completely surrenders to it.

Catherine Strayed is a lonely widow living in a sleepy college town. Her husband Wyatt--a talented writer who enjoyed great acclaim until a scathing review nearly ruined him--died recently  in a car accident. Catherine works at a small bookstore and wonders how she will be able to keep her home on her meager income.

When the critic arrives in town and accepts a teaching position at the local college, Catherine's world is rocked. She never told Wyatt, but before their marriage, she had an affair with Henry--the man who  ruined her husband with his poison pen review. Catherine knows it never was about Wyatt's talent; the review was meant to hurt her. And it did, and it continues to rip her life apart. Not only that, Henry has brought exotic, eccentric, talented, and much younger Antonia Lively with him as his latest protege and romantic conquest.

Antonia appears everywhere. She shows up at the book store and on Catherine's porch. She continues to push her way  into Catherine's life. Catherine fights her friendship at first, but then accepts Antonia just enough for Antonia to gain foothold. There is nothing she won't do to find "pay" dirt that will become her next bestseller. Antonia has tasted success and the good life; she yearns for the attention of the posh New York glitterati and the pompous literati.

Antonia also carries a secret. Her famous book is based on a story her uncle told her, and now he's in town for revenge. Catherine feels drawn to Antonia, and she seems almost a mother figure to her. She takes care of Antonia and keeps her safe.

 The lives of all the characters are twisted through the plot and the narrator finally comes forward in the last pages--that is the beauty of this novel. As readers, we see all the main characters and their actions, yet the narrator is never revealed. The narrator seems a part of the action, yet apart from the action. In the end, we see the narrator has been there all along and it's sublime storytelling.

Levinson portrays the world of writers and publishing through his characters. Antonia says about fiction, "There is no right or wrong when you're writing fiction. There is no truth. It's all lies." Henry is sick of the publishing industry and he lets them have a piece of his mind at Antonia's party, "You used to buy good books...Literature is art. Remember? Literature exists in spite of us...You find 'beauty' in cheap stories told by opportunists, given legitimacy through your complicity. You pay ridiculous sums of money to celebrities and politicians who don't need it. Yet you're stingy with the real writers who can't make ends meet."

Highly, highly recommended for book clubs and lovers of fiction. This is real storytelling and a compelling plot.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

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