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Strange Fits of Passion

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  6,989 Ratings  ·  379 Reviews
A labyrinthine tale of truth and deception from acclaimed novelist Anita ShreveEveryone believes that Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York City journalists, have a happy, stable marriage. It's the early '70s and no one discusses or even suspects domestic abuse. But after Maureen suffers another brutal beating, she flees with her infant daughter to a coastal ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published April 1st 1991)
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Apr 27, 2014 Florence rated it really liked it
Anita Shreve writes a gripping story. In this one, the setting of a small town on the coast of Maine, during a frigid winter, had me turning pages very quickly. A lot of sympathy is generated by Mary, a battered wife, who has left her former life behind. Much nuance is added to the tale by having events described by different characters.
Jan 21, 2009 Lulu rated it it was amazing
I rarely rate novels 5 stars, yet this one deserves to get 5. A novel by Anita Shreve “Strange Fits of Passion” is so absorbing a story that you simply can’t put the novel down until you finish reading it at one time. A story of a turbulent tragic story of domestic abuse. A woman who is sentenced to a life prison for a first degree murder she did for self-defense against her brutal husband. Unlike other novels that use a lot of “I” and seem to have only one character speaking and playing role th ...more
Sep 30, 2011 Laurel rated it liked it
I read this book for a book group, otherwise I would never have chosen a book about domestic violence myself. The story was compelling but I am not a Shreve fan. As in her past books, the characters are unlikable and I feel she is a very manipulative, intrusive author. The characters feel like puppets on a stage; I never feel transported by the writing. In this case, the narrative is intentionally disjointed because the bulk of the story is related in a series of writings and interviews by the m ...more
Gale Martin
Aug 19, 2013 Gale Martin rated it really liked it
I wish I had read this before I began writing creatively because it is so instructive, and I was really intrigued by her craft--the method she used to unravel this tale. Pacing and revelation in this work are everything a reader expects from this author.

While I love her penchant of teasing out only what readers need to know to stay engrossed in the story, her main characters are always somewhat thin. I couldn't relate to her protagonists though I did feel for the battered woman. I just didn't g
Feb 05, 2009 Gabi rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2013 Zac rated it liked it
This is a beautifully written book, collected as a series of interviews and anecdotes that form an article. The article in question revolves around a murder case that took place in St Hilaire. We are offered a series of insights into the motives of the characters and most importantly, the central character, Mary, or Maureen as she was known; she assumed a new identity as she sought to escape from her violent husband.
The writing is amazing, especially the change of pace as the character goes fro
Aug 07, 2015 Lorrie rated it really liked it
The first half of this book was so hard for me to read. I love Ms. Shreve and have read every book that she has written (this being my last until she writes a new novel), but this book was disturbing. The first half deals with domestic violence. The second half deals with the promise of a new life which was a little bit easier reading. I will not even mention what happens because I know that would ruin it for so many readers.

Although I found this book difficult to read most of the time, I still
Sunny Shore
I give out too many 4's and 5's, so this very entertaining Anita Shreve book will be the first book I will sacrifice to a 3. I liked it. There are just too many books far better than this that deserve a 4. Maureen English runs away from NYC and an abusive husband and takes her baby 500 miles away to a freezing cold hamlet in Maine. The story is told from different points of view - people in the town - how she fares and the aftermath of a tragedy(s). Maureen is complicated and I don't want to spo ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Korey rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. The structure of this story is interesting: it is presented through various first person accounts that are part of a journalist's notes for a long form magazine article. This is an excellent device that creates and maintains suspense, gives each important character a distinctive narrative voice, and offers a fascinating perspective on how different characters perceive the same events. The emotional core of the story deeply ...more
May 07, 2015 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I really really enjoyed this book! It was one of those books that you are sad to say good-bye to.. .you know the ones, the ones where you start savoring the chapters and put off reading the ending because you don't want to part with it! Fortunately, this was a library book so I couldn't employ my usual stall tactics. Don't let the name of the book fool you into thinking this is a hot steamy love story. . .it is not. There are many different types of passion, and not all of them are good. I don't ...more
Jun 24, 2009 Chana rated it liked it
Maureen English is a 26 year old up and coming reporter who becomes involved with a fellow reporter. Their relationship is never a healthy one, based as it is on drinking, sex and secrets. But she marries him and spends two years getting beaten by him before she takes her infant daughter and runs. She takes on a new name and identity as Mary Amesbury. If Mary's husband is boxing her in, Anita Shreve is certainly boxing us readers in as well. I sympathized with Mary but I didn't see her making ch ...more
This book was about truth. This book showed me how the truth can so easily be stretched or twisted to a version that is completly the opposite of what really happened. The "facts" can be presented 2 different ways, or by 2 different people, and have 2 different outcomes. This is nothing new, it happens all the time. Everyone can see things differently. It also shows how a person can intentionally relay the "facts" with a choice of words to influence, or proselytize to their own advantage. Journa ...more
This isn't the Anita Shreve book I'd recommend to others. I didn't enjoy reading this emotionally unsatisfying story filled with alcoholism, domestic violence and other forms of violence. On the surface, the Ivy League educated husband and wife have an ideal marriage, but as we all know appearances can be deceiving.

The story, which is set in the late 1960 or early 1970s, follows a sequence of events set mostly in a small cold town in Maine filled with a cast of colorful characters that you'd fi
Paul Bryant
Sep 25, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: historians of domestic violence
Shelves: novels
The story of the dreadful marriage is presented twice - first by the escaping wife and then by the reporter who wrote the ensuing glossy magazine article. These two versions are presented to the daughter of the wife 20 years later, and the whole idea - I think - is to show how our views about this nasty subject have changed, and how repulsive the attitudes of the early 1970s were towards women in this situation.
That's not a bad idea for a novel, but Anita Shreve spends such a lot of time paint
Jul 23, 2012 Mara rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible story! I really loved it! I almost had to do a double-take to make sure it wasn't a true story because it seemed so real. The story was captivating and intense. It also had a bit of suspense thriller thrown in. It was realistic too and quite poignant. I also liked how there were different voices telling the story. Sometimes you just want to get mad at some of the characters because you want them to help or understand; you want to jump into the book and shake them and say: " ...more
Skye Skye
Aug 21, 2014 Skye Skye rated it it was amazing
Anita Shreve's Strange Fits of Passion is an engaging, beautifully wrought novel that takes the reader by the hand and immerses him/her into a tale of fear, hope, sorrow, magic, and love. It contains moments of suspense and excitement. It is a wonderful examination of marriage gone wrong and the risks one takes for a child, safety and a safe harbor; it also revolves around the theme of love and loss.
Jan 21, 2014 Bachyboy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am reading the quick purchases from the Naseby book sale! I quite enjoyed this; the violent husband seemed a timely topic. However the multiple voice and time frames were less successful, I thought.
Beth Rosen
Jul 27, 2015 Beth Rosen rated it it was ok
Who would have thought that a book about a battered woman trying to escape her abusive husband could be so boring? There are no surprises in the book. You start out knowing that the main character spends many years in prison for killing her husband, and the rest of the book is her writing from prison to explain how and why. None of the narrative is really surprising, it reads like a made-for-tv special about an abused woman that incorporates almost every domestic abuse cliche. There is a little ...more
Dec 16, 2015 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story of domestic violence set in 1969-70.

Maureen flees with her baby into the snow of a small town in Maine, a place so small she doesn't think anyone would look for her there. She met her husband, Harrold, the first day she started work at the magazine where both were journalists. The marriage looked rosy on the outside because Harrold was smart enough to hit where it was not likely to show.

Maureen knew that she would not stand a chance getting away from him in the usual way: divorce. Sh
Jill Manske
Jan 06, 2016 Jill Manske rated it really liked it
One of the things I like about Anita Shreve is that she doesn't shy away from difficult topics. In "Strange Fits of Passion", she tackles domestic violence and homicide as a method of self-defense. Shreve tells the story of Maureen English through a series of interviews with various witnesses who knew or thought they knew the facts in the case of the murder of Harrold English, Maureen's abusive, violent, probably alcoholic husband. She also includes the notes that Maureen wrote about the circums ...more
I really liked this book until just about the last chapter.
The ending ran like a term paper that had to be exactly so many words, and with the ends of the story snipped off and stuffed back into the seam, it barely made it, limping to the finish.

As a side note: Are there books written about spousal abuse where the wife picks up and flees to the city? Because I can't seem to find any....
Mar 12, 2011 ☮Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read on how battered wives were thought of back in 1971 (maybe she did something to deserve it), and the lies, cover ups, and misunderstandings that go along with it. Shreve may have been trying to convey that things have gotten better in these 40 years since, but that's debateable. I think this is one of Shreve's better offerings.
Bonnie Sanguinet
Aug 24, 2016 Bonnie Sanguinet rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catherine Sandy
Jan 05, 2012 Catherine Sandy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Debbie, Chella, Angie
Well written. the story of an abusive marriage is told through the wife who experienced it as well as some people from the town she escaped to and the author of an investigative reporter who wrote about the tragedy. Story occurred in 1970 when spousal abuse was just swept aside.
Jan 05, 2008 Jaime rated it really liked it
Anita Shreve is not my favorite--but I decided to give it another go. I really did enjoy this book. Each chapter is a different perspective based on notes from a journalist. The narrator is writing an article about an abused woman who tries to hide from her husband. Very compelling!
Apr 06, 2009 Anna rated it liked it
This was similar to reading a Jodi Piccoult book. It's very engrossing and emotional. I liked the main character and her direct and honest telling of her story. The excerpts and asides from other characters were great for other perspectives.
Priscilla Herrington
Dec 14, 2015 Priscilla Herrington rated it it was amazing
Anita Shreve is a gifted author. It is always hard for me to believe her characters don't actually exist in this world - and Strange Fits of Passion was no exception.

Trigger warning: For anyone who has ever experienced any degree of domestic abuse, this may be a very difficult read. Shreve gets inside Maureen's head, and Maureen's actions and thoughts are spot on. If you've ever been there, you know what I mean.

This book takes place in the early 1970s; some things have changed since then and per
Zoe Millward
Apr 17, 2013 Zoe Millward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It wasn't an edge of your seat thriller like my usual sort of book, but it was compelling and I was keen to find out how the sad tale ended. My first Anita Shreve story, but I will look forward to more!
Nov 26, 2015 Soozblooz rated it liked it
I think I've read everything Anita Shreve has written; somehow this earlier novel escaped me. As ever, Ms. Shreve employs beautiful and evocative language. Even though Strange Fits of Passion is a sad tale of how domestic abuse was viewed in the 70's, the larger story seems to be how a journalist takes what she knows to be the truth and creates doubt where there is none to advance her own fledgling career. It works. The journalist gets a cover and a book deal, and now, 20 years hence, seeks abso ...more
Jennifer Mathison
Oct 12, 2016 Jennifer Mathison rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-challenge
I always enjoy Anita Shreve's writing and this book was no exception. The character development was top-notch, coupled with a plot which moved along steadily and kept the reader's attention.
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Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). A ...more
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“Once you tell your first lie, the first time you lie for him, you are in it with him, and then you are lost.” 13 likes
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