Monday, February 16, 2009

Julie' Review: Testimony

Summary: Shreve's novels (Body Surfing; The Weight of Water) benefit from propulsive plots, and her mixed latest, with its timely theme of debauchery among children of privilege, does not lack in this regard. The first paragraph foreshadows a tragedy in which three marriages are destroyed, the lives of three students at a private school in Vermont are ruined, and death claims an innocent victim. The precipitating event is a sex tape involving three members of the boys' basketball team and a freshman girl. Beginning with an account of the debacle by the Avery School's then headmaster, and segueing to the voices of the participants in the orgy, plus their parents and others touched by the scandal, the narrative explores the widening consequences of a single event. Shreve's character delineation is astute, and the novel's moral questions—ranging from the boys' behavior to the headmaster's breach of legal ethics to the guilt of those involved in the death—are salient if heavy-handed, while the female characters are wicked in the way women have always been stereotypically portrayed. The novel is clever, but the revolving cast of narrators often feels predictable and forced, keeping the novel on the near side of credible.

Review: We all know that most teenagers are self-destructive in some form and that we are all pretty happy to make it out some what in tack. In today's age of You Tube the stupid things teenagers do can cost them a lot more than they even realize. This is what happens to three teenage boys at an exclusive academy. They are accused of Sexual Assault because they girl they all have sex with is 14 and that's statutory rape in the state of Vermont. The question is, was it consensual or not. We all know they performed because it was caught on tape and posted to You Tube for the world to see. Testimony is the story of how their actions affect many people and how consequences last a long time.

There was pretty much one or two characters that I thought were interesting in the book out of the 15 that she provides us with. The book is written from all the characters view points and frankly some of them weren't integral to the story. I would have liked to have gotten into the reasons for the actions long before the last chapter of the book and it was only from one point of view. I didn't really feel sympathetic towards any of the characters, except Noelle, who is the girlfriend of one of the boys on the tape. In all of this she really is the innocent victim. I'm not even sure that the "victim" in the story is truly a victim at all. I'm not saying that what happened was right, it sure as heck wasn't, but I'm not convinced she was innocent in all of this either. I didn't really get attached to any of the three boys that were involved in the case.

There are authors who are excellent at telling the same story from multiple views well, but Ms. Shreve failed with this book. It only works when each of the views moves the plot forward and I didn't feel like it succeeded in that manner. I understand what Ms. Shreve was going for here, our actions affect not only those close to us but the lives of others we may not even know. I just think it fell flat.

Ms. Shreve has written so many other wonderful books that I would highly recommend over Testimony. If you've never read her or this is your first novel, I recommend you try the following: The Pilot's Wife, Sea Glass and Fortune's Rocks.

I can't say that I would recommend this book to any of my friends looking for a great read. I would lend them any one of the books I mentioned above.

Final Take: 3/5


Serena February 17, 2009 at 2:31 PM  

Sorry to hear you didn't like this one by Shreve, I really enjoyed the ripple effects she showed through the various POVs.

Julie February 17, 2009 at 3:07 PM  

I liked that aspect but I just didn't care. The only 2 characters I felt truly sorry for were Anna and Noelle.

Keetha February 18, 2009 at 12:45 PM  

I haven't read this, although I have several by her, including Sea Glass, that I liked a whole lot. I think I'll give this one a miss. Thanks for the heads up!

Keetha February 18, 2009 at 12:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
bookfool February 23, 2009 at 8:35 AM  

I haven't read any Shreve, except Testimony. I thought it was pretty good. I agree though, that not many of the characters were very sympathetic. I like Noelle, of course, but I found Silas to be a good character as well, he acted poorly, but it wasn't without good reason. I wasn't sure if I'd read anymore of Shreve's novels, but maybe I'll try a couple you suggested. Thanks!

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