Friday, 2 September 2011

Where or When by Anita Shreve

Where or When by Anita Shreve
First published by Harcourt in 1993 (this edition by Abacus in 1994)

Description (from Goodreads)
Charles Callahan, a faithfully married businessman, chances upon a newspaper photograph of a woman he loved 30 years ago. Unable to resist, he writes her, a poet living with her husband and two children.
Powerfully drawn together again, the two lovers grapple with issues they never expected to face: the nature of erotic love and betrayal, the agony of lost years, bewildering moral quandaries in an age of shifting values, and the elusive nature of time.

My thoughts
This is a book I had never thought about reading at any time. I had heard of Anita Shreve before, but I just never seemed to want to pick up a book of hers to read (for no particular reason). So this year, when I was browsing through my Grandma's bookshelves, I noticed that she had quite a few Anita Shreve books and it made me curious. Apparently, she loves reading Anita Shreve books, so I decided to try one to see for myself. Where or When was just the one I decided to pick up, as I looked through a few descriptions and that was the one that made me want to read it more.

So, after that ramble, I'll go on with the actual review. Where or When is the story of two people, Charles and Sian, who met at a summer camp when they were 12 and fell in love with each other. Fast forwarding 30 years, Charles and Sian have not seen each other since, but when Charles sees a photo of Sian in the newspaper, he decides to contact her. After that, we have a series of letters coming back and forth between the two main characters, until Charles realises he really is still in love with her (and she is still in love with him).

To me, the whole premise the novel was based on seems rather ridiculous. I can understand two people being in love, losing contact and then, meet up again, only to realise that the feeling has always been there. But in this case, it was a little stupid. I mean, Charles and Sian met when they were 12 (!!!), were at that summer camp for only a week (!!!!!) and after 30 years, they just decide that those brief moments 30-odd years ago are worth breaking up their whole families for. It just sounds very unrealistic and very shallow. And that ending.... Talk about disappointing. It left so many things open. But, at least, I am happy that it wasn't what I expected it to be.

And I really came to dislike Charles as a character. He was in debt, there was a big chance of their house being repossessed because of said debts and all that he cared about was how, when and where he would meet Sian. He didn't even seem to care that much about his children, at times, which I found to be catalytic in my decision not to like him. Sian, at least, was a little more dignified as a character.

All in all, I obviously haven't had a good first experience with Anita Shreve's writing, but I promise myself I will try reading another one of her books next year when I visit my grandparents' house again.

Rating: 4/10

Anita Shreve is an American author. She holds a degree from Tufts University and taught in high schools for a number of years before deciding to quit, in order to pursue a career in writing. She has written a large number of books, including:

You can find out more about Anita Shreve and her books from her official website.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011


  1. Ouch, that sounds pretty awful. Sometimes these type of books are so bad that they are actually enjoyable, but I guess that wasn't the case here!

  2. It's good that you try and step out of your comfort one every now and then :) Try not to be too deterred by this bad experience with Anita Shreve.

    As soon as you said they were 12 when they first met, I knew it wouldn't be a book I could enjoy. Those kind of unbelievable connections really bother me when reading a book.

    Great review, all the same :)

  3. She's never held any appeal to me either but then we can't all like everything :)


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