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Strange Fits of Passion

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  5,965 ratings  ·  325 reviews
The reader is left to uncover the truth in this labryinth of a tale, a riveting story told within the framework of one reporter's notes and a woman's letters from prison. Everyone 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 a ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published November 11th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published April 1st 1991)
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Bryant
Sep 25, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
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.
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....
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.
Catherine Sandy
Jan 05, 2012 Catherine Sandy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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!
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.
Zoe Millward
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!
Just finished...this was an awesome book. I couldn't put it down.
Kate Perry
I always enjoy an Anita Shreve novel. "The Pilot's Wife" is still my favorite and one of my favorite overall books I have ever read. This one, like her others, didn't awe me to the level that "The Pilot's Wife" did, but it came close. This is one of her older novels and I'm surprised that the average rating for this book is so low. I flew through this book and managed to do so without much time to read, surrounded by the wonderful noise and chaos that comes with having lots of family in from out ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane Ferbrache
Maureen and Harrold English are the perfect couple, successful journalists and happily married. At least that's what it look like to everyone on the outside, so when Maureen murders harrold, everyone wants to know the real story. Another woman journalist, hoping to get the real story and maybe a book deal out of it, decides to tell Maureen's story. Did Harrold really abuse Maureen or is it just a story to hide an affair? The real story is told in Maureen's letters and interviews with colleagues ...more
Heather Walls
Just as I have with most of her works, I flew right into the world of this story, away from the here – the very thing every novel hopes to accomplish. Her writing is the kind we fall asleep holding. The kind that has us bargaining with ourselves. "Just 10 more pages, then I’ll ..." Before we know it, 10 have turned to 20, 20 to 50, and 50 to the epilogue.

I can now proudly say I’ve read every book Anita Shreve has authored. Though first published 20 years ago, the style in Strange Fits of Passion
Sometimes it's good to go back and read an author's early work. Strange Fits of Passion, 1991, is clearly one of Shreve's best efforts. Well plotted, with an interesting format of 'transcriptions' of the POVs by the main and minor characters, Shreve takes the reader into the very dark territory of spousal abuse.

The narrator is a magazine reporter who once did a sensational story of a murder trial, and who is now giving the grown daughter of the woman at the center of the story, the transcripts-
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
Actual Rating: 3.5

I really enjoyed this book and loved the way the story was told. The story starts with the journalist talking to Maureen's grown up daughter Caroline and then switches to the material that the journalist gives Caroline (interviews with Maureen and local residence in the town where Maureen hid from her husband) and we read this material as Caroline would be reading it. Finally we get to see the final (and deeply disturbing) article that the journalist published.

Anita Shreve is a
As you can tell, I'm a huge Anita Shreve fan. She is one of the most talented authors I've ever read and consistently enjoyed.
In Strange Fits of Passion, a woman flees an abusive relationship with her infant daughter in tow. The pair ends up in northern Maine but it's clear from the beginning that the estranged husband finds them and the conclusion is not pretty.
The format of this book made it very unique. The story unfolds through letters from the battered (now imprisoned) woman to a journali
Beth Dean
I've read Testimony by Anita Shreve so I knew of her detailed developing style, this one however took me by suprise at the subtlety Shreve used when approaching such a humongous, sensitive and well-covered issue.

The first thing I noticed in this book was that it's set up as research for a magazine article and it never once wavers unless it is meant (in Maureen/Mary's recount only). That is a sign of a truly great book for me at least. This is mainly made by a outside narrative with a past narra

I never agree with capital punishment until I meet a character like Harrold. Then I see it as completely justifiable. This is not great literature but it is a compelling story. Not sure how Goodreads would identify spoilers since the plot is pretty well revealed close to the beginning of the book. This is not a murder mystery. There is no mystery. You know how it will end. But the unfolding of the characters and the possibilities of redemption provide the momentum for the reader.
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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.” 12 likes
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