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Strange Fits of Passion

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  8,857 ratings  ·  474 reviews
A labyrinthine tale of truth and deception from acclaimed novelist Anita Shreve  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 after Maureen suffers another brutal beating, she flees with her infant daughter to a coast ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published April 1st 1991)
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Christine Mathieu I'm also a survivor of an abusive marriage (1983 - 1997) and this was one of the very few books which encouraged me to leave him. IMHO it's Shreve's m…moreI'm also a survivor of an abusive marriage (1983 - 1997) and this was one of the very few books which encouraged me to leave him. IMHO it's Shreve's master piece and a wonderful novel, very compelling (much more than "Black and Blue" by Anna Quinlan and even better than "Sleeping with the Enemy" by Nancy Price which for me was a lot better than Quindlen's highly praised novel). Yes, I watched "Enough", but found it rather unrealistic. I tried a self-defense training, but it just didn't work.(less)

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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,857 ratings  ·  474 reviews

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Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-authors
A dark, engrossing tale of domestic violence and it's aftermath.
Maureen English runs away from. her abusive marriage with her 6 month old daughter Caroline, ekes out a life for herself in the remote , cold fishing village..
Her wickedly clever husband sniffs out her trail and encounters her.
The tragic aftermath is brilliantly described as excerpts from a journalist interview .
We come to know Maureen, Howard, Jack and many others through their letters and interview with the journalist.
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this because I wanted a light read (literally, I wanted a book that wasn't heavy to hold). I've had this book for about a year, but after three Anita Shreve books I took a small break from her work. I enjoy her writing, but I have to say this one is definitely my favourite by her so far.
It was tense and slow moving at the same time. I'd expected it to be a book where I read a few chapters at a time - instead I temporarily abandoned my other reads as I got completely caught up
May 28, 2011 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
Apr 19, 2014 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.
Aug 07, 2008 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
Kara Hansen
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 extraordinary stars! I have long been an Anita Shreve fan, and this book will most certainly make the list of favourites. This story was published way back in '91, and had been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. The title itself, Strange Fits of Passion is odd, and I can see potential readers passing it by...however, I will start by saying that this book had me riveted right from the beginning. The story of Maureen English fleeing an abusive marriage and attempting to put her life back t ...more
Gloria ~ mzglorybe
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: domestic-fiction
This is an older work of Shreve’s, published in 1991, but a timely one, what with the “Me too” movement and the controversy involving freedom of the press and fake news.

The novel takes place in 1971, twenty years prior. It is told from the perspective of several individuals acquainted with the main character, Maureen English, aka Mary Amesbury, fleeing from an abusive husband, taking her infant daughter with her. She stops in a small coastal town in Maine for the night at a motel and signs in a
Jun 22, 2009 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
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gale Martin
Aug 19, 2013 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
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 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
Aug 03, 2013 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
Oct 07, 2012 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
Jess Van Dyne-Evans
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....
Julia Staiano
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A compelling read giving insight into how abusive relationships evolve and the reasons people become trapped in them. I liked the style Shreve uses here- adopting viewpoints from may different characters. A cleverly thought out book; well written, as always, by Shreve. I wished there had been one more chapter giving Mary's final viewpoint...
Jan 21, 2014 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.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A journalist meets a woman in her college room to give her some transcripts of her mother’s murder trial. Told from different perspectives, the book goes into the details of the murder case, including what led to her killing her husband.

I really liked this book. I would recommend it to others.
Alyssa Kline
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was such a good book. I could hardly put this book down! This was my first book by Anita Shreve and I really like her as an author so far!!
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 Passio
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
LyndaIn Oregon
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
It's not a new story -- an abusive relationship escalates until the victim flees, the aggressor finds her, and violence ensues.

Shreve has chosen to approach it via the stories of multiple people involved, including the writer whose cover story in a major magazine may have influenced the eventual verdict. The multiple-voice narration works well, but the magazine story (which is included toward the end of the narrative) feels very clumsy and poorly written, in marked contrast to Shreve's normal s
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
Jul 23, 2012 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
Mar 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
i have read anita shreve books in the past and perhaps i liked them, i can not remember but for some reason i was drawn to this book's title and brought it home from the library...and i was not as entertained as i hoped.
i guess i had preconceived ideas of what this book would contain and was disappointed to find that it was not as anticipated. I was also annoyed by the main character and her actions but reading is a little about trying to understand other personalities, right? i did wanted to s
Mar 24, 2015 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
Michelle Hofacker
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
La Petite Américaine Cash App: $Covid2020sucks
Jun 24, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Oprah Fans?
Shelves: sucked
Judging by the publication date, Anita Shreve was really caught up in the Holly/Roger drama on Guiding Light back in the day. She changed the names, rewrote some of the scenes, and sent it off to her agent. Literally. She took a halfway decent TV soap and turned it into a novel. How annoying.

I actually didn't mind this book, except for the fact that it was a pointless, depressing story with no real resolution, no reflection, and no outcome. If you enjo 200 pages of depressing prose, go for it.

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Anita Shreve was an American writer, chiefly known for her novels. Shreve's novels have sold millions of copies worldwide. She attended Tufts University and began writing while working as a high school teacher. One of her first published stories, Past the Island, Drifting, (published in 1975) was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1976. Among other jobs, Shreve spent three years working as a journalist ...more

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