Guera's Reviews > A Change in Altitude

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
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's review
Oct 27, 2010

really liked it

What an amazing book. I think this is my final verdict. I was torn between it being exceptionally good but lacking the "ting" factor. There was just something off. It is one of those books that leaves you thinking about the message long after you put it down.

It is the story about a newly married young couple. He is a doctor working in Kenya doing research in tropical diseases. She worked for a newspaper before as photographer. Not working now in Kenya she needs something to do and eventually ends up working for the local newspaper amidst a lot of political unrest and less freedom of speech than she would like.

But the story is really about her personal growth and the journey from being an inconspicuous young naive to becoming confident enough to make decisions about what she wants. A weakling always tagging along, last to get up the mountain, not drawn into the circles by the other woman in the story, always more interested in the local labour force's well-being than in the British traditions brought to Kenya. I came to dislike her husband. Although he showed glimpses of caring for her, I think it was more a matter of owning up to the responsibility of having to take care of her because she accompanied him to Africa. As a newly married couple, the move to Kenya kept them together but it is a relationship that had no chance of surviving and she realised this, fought it, but then grew to accept it and move on.

The name of the book and the short synopses on the back cover about concurring Mount Kenya suggested it related to the mountain and a chance in the place they were living. I see it as a change in her altitude. She rose above the circumstances and came out stronger for it. Stunning representation of the non-tourist reality of Kenya and the description of dealing with a crush on a member of the opposite gender when you are married was very human.

The only think that bothered me in the book is the change in speed, for lack of a better word. Pages would be devoted to a single activity, followed by a paragraph or two almost going into a Star Trek like warp speed towards a date 2 weeks later. The book covers about a 14 month stay in Kenya. A few sentences into the paragraph do you only realise you are getting some generic fill to book with info to make it a book snippets. That distracted from the main story and prevented the book from becoming unputdownable.

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