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All He Ever Wanted

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  13,924 ratings  ·  1,080 reviews
"A marriage is always two intersecting stories." This realization comes perhaps too late to the husband of Etna Bliss-a man whose obsession with his young wife begins at the moment of their first meeting, as he helps Etna and her companions escape from a fire in a hotel restaurant, and culminates in a marriage doomed by secrets and betrayal. Written with the intelligence a ...more
Kindle Edition, First edition, 384 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Little, Brown and Company
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Diane I was questioning it for awhile too. But I'm so glad I stuck with it. It is masterful. I couldn't get over it.
I listened to the audiobook, read by De…more
I was questioning it for awhile too. But I'm so glad I stuck with it. It is masterful. I couldn't get over it.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Dennis Boutsikaris -- excellent! That might have been part of why I was able to tolerate the slow beginning (okay, and middle) and stick with it. He portrays Von Tessol (sp?) perfectly.
I'm now reading Stella Bain, and yes, again -- so very glad I stuck with All He Ever Wanted. (less)
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Average rating 3.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,924 ratings  ·  1,080 reviews


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Jen
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fiction writers
Shelves: audio
Other reviews have commented on the style of this book in a negative way. It is true that the narrator is pompous, idiotic, and boring. He is also written about in a flat way, and it's difficult to feel any empathy for him. I believe this is intentional, however, and it demonstrates the author's skill. The protagonist moves from being a "bore" to an audacious oaf, to a despicable human being. The book is written in memoir form, and the fact that the entire novel is written from only his point of ...more
Darlene
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'All He Ever Wanted' by Anita Shrive is described by the publisher as a novel about 'obsessive love', and although I find using the word 'obsessive' to describe love problematic, I have to admit that I was transfixed by this story from the first page. The novel is narrated by 64-year-old antagonist Nicholas Van Tassel. He relates his story to readers over the course of a train ride he is taking from New England to Florida to attend to the burial of his sister. Readers are taken back 30 years int ...more
Crandall
Aug 04, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
soooooooo boring. I dare you to finish it.
bookyeti
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, own
Never judge a book by its...title

Never having the pleasure of reading any of Shreve’s works prior to delving into “All He Ever Wanted”, I admittedly formed an unfair and premature opinion of the novel based on its somewhat flimsy melodramatic title. However, I was soon to discover that it is definitely a fitting and descriptive cover for the thespian narrative that unravels within. I was also taken unaware that this was a period piece, set in New England in the early part of the 20th Century - a
...more
Melinda Chadwick
Jun 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Yeah, I don't enjoy books about manipulative assholes.
Cindy
Feb 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cheryl
Sep 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on tape, and have to say i wasn't into it at all during the first chapters. However, i stuck with it, and was so glad that i did.

This book is a fascinating examination of the general mores and attitudes of the late Victorian era - - - i say this because i feel that the leading character, Nicholas Van Tassel, is very much a product of that time rather than the era in which the narrative actually occurs. When one translates the Victorian Era to a stiff and stilted New Engl
...more
Ron Charles
Sep 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even at The Christian Science Monitor, opening the book packages that pour in every day is a dirty business. I used to come home with my shirt smudged black till I found a solution. But now, no matter how many times I remind my colleagues that I'm wearing a "manly smock," they insist on calling it an "apron."

Enjoying a novel by Anita Shreve puts me in a similarly defensive mood. I realize this raises a couchful of insecurities that can't be resolved in a book review, but it goes to the heart of
...more
Stephanie
Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. she did a great job making the protagonist a real person, someone whose obsessive desire to own HIS wife gave me claustrophobia just to read it.

Also a nice satire on academia, mixed in. I found parts of it so sad...and totally agree with the person who said this book was like watching a caged bird from the perspective of the hungry cat.

the style captured the time period (a century or more ago) and really seemed to have been written by the pompous prig that was the protagonist...let's be al
...more
Jacki
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After I read the first chapter of this book, I almost decided not to keep going. The language just really got on my nerves. Also annoying: at LEAST once per page there is a section in parentheses. For some reason this really got under my skin. Needless to say, I decided to give it a better chance & I got used to both of these things and was able to finish it.

I think that the thing that I didn't like about this story is that the main character is so unlikable that it makes it hard to read. I felt
...more
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
All He Ever Wanted begins with a hotel fire in the early 1900’s. The narrator of the story is recounting his past while en route to his sister’s funeral. Bachelor Nicholas Van Tassel is a stuffy professor at a snotty boys' school who is inside the hotel when the blaze begins but leaves unscathed. During this tragedy where twenty people perish in a fiery death he meets the woman of his dreams Etna Bliss.

Etna’s “handsome” face, her lovely waist and her other womanly attributes haunt his every thou
...more
Scott
Apr 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started reading this book I thought, “OK, I’m not getting through this one. Obvious chick book”. But I kept on and got hooked and finished in a couple of days. It’s the seemingly simple story of a professor at a small college who falls madly in love with a woman who he courts and marries. All desperately slowly as it is around 1899. She, though, has a somewhat dark and secret past and tells him up front that although she agrees to marry him she does not love him. He is determined that she ...more
Kerri
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this. It's well written and there was something about it that let me read it to the end without too much trouble, but I can't say I liked the book. I connected with nothing in it, character or plot. It was readable though, even when I didn't care about what I was reading.
Beth
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ALL HE EVER WANTED is a story of obsession. It is fiction written in the form of a memoir by a man who had been obsessed with his wife.

I felt sorry for this man, Nicholas, for about the first two thirds of the book. I forgave him his faults when (as I see from previous reviews I’ve read) others did not because it was apparent to me that this memoir is Nicholas’s confession. He now sees his errors and is sorry. Later, though, I wondered: is Nicholas sorry because of what he had done or does he j
...more
Heather
At times pansy-assed, this is a story of refined obsession. As more of Van Tassel's character is revealed, I found myself feeling more and more sorry for him. I boo'ed at Etna's agreement to marry him, but cheered when her secret cottage was revealed (though, to be clear, that whole storyline could have used about 50 more pages of development).

The book is written almost as one of the early 1900s and successfully comes off as a tribute to that time--the language, the affectations, the ideas. Ther
...more
Adela
Jun 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book has stayed with me. for 2 wks now. but my reaction is what a waste of a life, not one but four. Reminds me how dishonesty and creep into succeeding generations. Writing style is a little stuffy Victorian, but appropriate for the setting. loves and marries a women who tells him she does not love him. I am struck of a how difficult it would be to live in a loveless marriage. How sad it would be not to be able to take one into your confidence. I guess it has struck me how one single bad ch ...more
Jackie
Dec 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was disturbing at times, but enlightening, and it truly captures the depths of obsession.

My favorite quote:
"The sight of your face on that morning so many years ago has remained for me a standard by which I judge my own affection for any woman with whom I am close, and the affection of any woman for me. I count you among the most fortunate of persons to have felt so strongly for another human being, however unhappy the outcome. Is this not the point of our existence?"
p. 229
Paula Dembeck
This story is set in the early 1900s in the fictional town of Thrupp, New England. It is narrated by Nicholas Van Tassel, a single, pompous, thirty year old professor of English rhetoric several years after the events have taken place. He is traveling by train to Florida to attend the funeral of his sister when he begins to reminisce about his past, trying to understand what has happened in the later years of his life when his obsession with a woman led him to do things no decent man would ever ...more
Kelly
Nov 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of period pieces
Great book! Though the reviews of it nearly scared me away, I dove into this one and was determined to give it a shot. I'm guessing it got bad reviews because people aren't used to the protagonist being annoying and sometimes completely unlikeable.

If you're a woman, you may have been pursued by a guy like this before. Women might relate with the guy so head-over-heels in love with them that they are almost disgusted with him. The narrator admits that he isn't handsome and his overeager pursuit o
...more
Elaine
Feb 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I loved it. I found myself savoring the vocabulary, the descriptions, the history, and the characters. I was always slowing down my reading just to contemplate and enjoy.
All he ever wanted was the woman he saw and wanted to marry. She did not love him, and she made that clear to him. She accepted his proposal as long he would accept that she would not love him. Can a marriage work that is not based on love? The characters and their motivations were beautifully described, and I enjoyed contempla
...more
Jen
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jen by: Joy
I have to admit, I didn't expect to like this book. I don't know why-- maybe I thought Anita Shreve was too commercial or something? But, as it turns out it was an excellent read. I was impressed by her dark, obsessive, and flawed main character, Nicholas Van Tassel. Watching his un-admirable qualities pile up all around him until they eventually poisoned his entire life and the lives of others was compelling, disturbing, and also at times highly entertaining. A great read.
Truthmonkey
The main character says something at one point about this being the tale of a faintly ridiculous man, of not much interest to anybody...and I have to say that I agree. The writing was really good in parts, and I enjoyed the voice of the guy who read it on the CD (my inner monologue sounded like him for about a week), but the story could have been short story, and felt too stretched into a novel.
Tiffeny
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barb
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I normally really like her books. This one was just ok. I didn’t really like any of the characters in the book and some things just didn’t make sense.
Edwina Callan
This is the story of a pompous ass determined to obtain the object of his obsession by any means that he deems necessary.
1 and a half stars.
Kara Hansen
3.5 stars. In picking up this book and reading the synopsis about a man obsessed with the woman who became his wife, I was more than shocked when I began reading and realized the story takes place in the early 1900s. A far different setting than any Shreve book that I have read to date.
All He Ever Wanted takes place in the early 1900s, where the story is told solely from the point of view of Nicholas Van Tassel. Van Tassel examines the events that began in 1899 and ended in 1915. Shreve’s writin
...more
Laura Spira
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My friend Barbara gave me a copy of Anita Shreve's later book "Stella Bain" which I enjoyed very much and reading the reviews of it here I realised that there was a connection with this earlier book so wanted to read this. The two books stand alone so it doesn't seem to matter that I read the later one first - and the writing and characterisation is so skilful that I can remember the other book very clearly anyway.

This story, set in the late 19th and early 20th century, of an obsessive and posse
...more
Louise
Mar 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I had to force myself to finish this novel. I find Anita Shreve to be an 'up & down' author. I've read many of her books but find some are great and others are lousy. I'd definitely put this in the lousy column.

From back cover:

"A marriage is always two intersecting stories. This realization comes perhaps too late to the husband of Etna Bliss--a man whose obsession with his young wife begins at the moment of their first meeting, as he helps Etna and her companions escape from a fire in a hotel re
...more
Amy
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such a sad story...really a tragedy.

My only criticism is that the cover of the book does not reflect the setting/time period of the story at all. The story is in the late-early 1900's, so it's a bit deceiving at first glance.

By the end of the book Phillip has become really a monster. His rage has taken over. You can understand his naivete in hoping that with time Etna would come to love him but it was clear that that was never going to happen. And the sad thing is how much he loved her
...more
Lisa Greer
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary types
This is the only novel by Shreve I've liked. One of my pet peeves is novels titled The X's Wife... insert male specialist where X (pilot, professor, shoe salesman, doctor, whatever) is. I mean, come on, people. We are beyond that at this point I think-- where every woman must be named as her husband's wife. What a tired convention. The whole feminist movement and men's movement for that matter has changed considerably, and I won't even read or buy a novel so named. Rant over.

Anyhow, I liked this
...more
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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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