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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anita Shreve is a winner again!
This is the third Anita Shreve book I've read, and they are among my favorite books every time. This tells the story of a woman escaping NYC and her abusive husband and heading to a sleepy Maine fishing town.
While the story itself is intriguing, the medium in which it is told makes the book stellar. It is told in letters to a reporter writing a story for a...
Published on June 14 2004 by smallbutfeisty

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars addendum to last review (also mine)
I'm glad someone has found my review helpful. There was too much vagueness and obscurity surrounding this plot. While in the 1970s, there were few resources for battered wives (as they were then known) and i myself spent many frustrating nights on the phone with women who were afraid for their lives and had nowhere to refer them, let alone do anything concrete to help...
Published on Dec 9 1999


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anita Shreve is a winner again!, June 14 2004
This is the third Anita Shreve book I've read, and they are among my favorite books every time. This tells the story of a woman escaping NYC and her abusive husband and heading to a sleepy Maine fishing town.
While the story itself is intriguing, the medium in which it is told makes the book stellar. It is told in letters to a reporter writing a story for a magazine. Twenty years later, the reporter is giving the interview letters to the abused woman's daughter. The interview letters are coming from the victim in jail, so that is established at the very beginning; the reader can guess what ultimately happened, but the getting there is the best part.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A "movie of the week" subject, told in a different style., June 17 2004
The way the story is presented in "Strange Fits of Passion" is unusual and interesting. Shreve writes of Maureen English, alias Mary Amesbury, who is a victim of domestic violence, in an almost detached manner. Maureen/Mary has finally had enough, takes her 6-month-old daughter and a few hundred dollars in cash, and flees to a small town in northern Maine, where she lives for 6-7 weeks, until her abusive husband finds her. Each chapter is told from a different point-of-view, usually Mary's, but also that of the reporter who is writing an article on Mary, as well as that of the townspeople who live in Maine. The tale starts when Mary first meets her husband and ends after he finds her and their daughter hiding in the Maine cottage. "Strange Fits of Passion" takes place in 1970/1971, when spousal abuse was little known and rarely discussed.
Shreve's detached manner in writing the story is, I think, deliberate and is what makes the story interesting. This is not one of those cheesy "woman in jeopardy" stories, but is more a study of the effects of abuse on the victim and how she is viewed by others (and herself). There is some suspense, as we are told from the beginning that "something awful" happened the night that Mary was found by her husband, although it's not hard to figure most of what happened as the tale unfolds. Overall, "Strange Fit of Passion" is a tragedy presented in a nonjudgmental way, and one that lets the reader make up his/her own mind when it comes to the guilt or innocence and circumstances involved in the abusive relationship.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another page-turner by Anita Shreve, Sept. 4 2003
By A Customer
Anita Shreve is my all-time favorite author. Her characters literally come alive. I feel as if I know them, as if I am one of them. Her descriptions of the settings are so real that I can see them. I can feel the cold and see the wind blowing the leaves as she describes it. This book was no different. The central character, Maureen English, could very well be my next door neighbor or my co-worker and her situation could belong to any of us.
Shreve's endings always leave you with a feeling of surprise or awe, yet this time I felt the ending was a little flat. The entire book is filled with emotional recollections regarding Maureen's situation and I breathlessly turned the pages waiting to discover her fate. However her fate and the fate of those who contributed to the story, after so much build up, was simply mentioned in passing. I felt unsatisified. I felt as if Ms. Shreve had devoted so much of herself to the building of the climax that she had no energy left to devote to the end. The important and intriguing questions that are raised by the subject matter simply disappear, like a blip on the screen, as we learn of Maureen's fate and the story ends. Anita Shreve will remain my favorite author, but her other books, Fortune's Rock, The Weight of Water (followed immediately by The Last Time They Met), and All He Ever Wanted will prove to be much more satisfying.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing look at domestic violence, May 21 2003
By 
J. Fercho (Calgary, AB. Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Anita Shreve is a fine author, and she again shows her talent in this early novel. Strange Fits of Passion is a well written page turner that delves into the terrifying realm of spousal abuse. The era is the late sixties and early seventies, and while domestic abuse is certainly prevalent it is rarely discussed and often quietly accepted.
Maureen English would appear to be leading the perfect life; an outwardly happy marraige to a successful journalist and a lovely new baby daughter. Behind closed doors however life for Maureen is anything but blissful. Her hard drinking husband is subjecting her to regular doses of physical and sexual violence. Terrified for the safety of herself and child, Maureen flees in the night to the relative anonimity of a small New England town. Maureen changes her name and begins to attempt to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. The facade quickly crumbles when Maureen's husband locates her and attempts to force her to come home. While very disturbing to read at times, this novel also shows us how far we have come in understanding domestic violence and it's effect on it's victims. Women who were subject to this brutality had few resources and even fewer options for help. Remember, in the era the story occurs, a man could not even techinically be charged with raping his wife in the State of Maine. While domestic violence is still prevalent, one would hope in today's era a woman would fare far better than Maureen ultimately did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars When "passion" crosses over the line, Nov. 6 2002
By 
Janice M. Hansen (California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a thriller of a story that has all the ingredients to qualify as an electric "page turner".
The setting of a small coastal town in Maine is eloquently depicted by the author as a refuge for Maureen, the physically and emotional abused wife of Harrold. It is 1971, and we are compelling introduced to a marriage going disturbingly awry.
Fueled by alcohol and unresolved childhood abandonment issues, Harrold quickly moves through the stages to be a full-fledged spousal abuser. He is an up and coming New York journalist and moves to seduce the new employee at his office. Maureen, being the newly employed journalist is beautiful, idealistic and malleable. Harrold begins his abuse predictably. Remorseful at first, he promises that the abuse will never happen again. Of course, they do and the empty promises continue while Maureen prays that indeed, this will be the last time. Through courtship, early marriage, pregnancy and post partum, the cycle continues and the tension mounts.
Maureen, unsupported and isolated, frightened and repeatedly threatened by her husband suffers for herself and her infant daughter. Fearing for her daughter after one horrific beating, she is finally motivated to escape. Waiting for her husband to lapse into alcoholic unconsciousness, bleeding and literally beaten to a pulp, she takes a few possessions, the baby, and the money in her husband's pocket. She escapes into the night to drive north to any destination far enough away from the hell she has been in. The story shares how the people in town were effected by this young woman with a baby. Maureen changes her name and tries to blend in to the anonymity which she needs to have to elude her husband. The consequences of her actions leave the town changed forever.
Unfortunately, at this time in social history, spousal abuse awareness was in it's infancy and support for the victims virtually absent. The majority of people chose to ignore the obvious signs and symptoms, justifying their inability to intervene with morally contrived comments that it was somehow inappropriate to interfere in any "man's" personal family life. For the victim, it was truly a nightmare of immense proportion and social isolation.
The book is a remarkable insight into the mindframe of a 1970's victim, abuser, family and bystanders. Group readers will have plenty to grieve, celebrate and expound on. This is a thought provoking novel that continues after the book has been finished. I felt the title even revealed the misunderstanding of spousal abuse at the time. Justified as passion, a man was legislatively allowed to "rape" his wife. I can hear the old statements "she threw a fit" and needed to be "knocked into place." This is when passion and emotions cross the proverbial line and Anita Shreve makes it crystal clear that it is nothing but what it is - abuse.
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5.0 out of 5 stars When "passion" crosses over the line, Nov. 6 2002
By 
Janice M. Hansen (California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a thriller of a story that has all the ingredients to qualify as an electric "page turner".
The setting of a small coastal town in Maine is eloquently depicted by the author as a refuge for Maureen, the physically and emotional abused wife of Harrold. It is 1971, and we are compelling introduced to a marriage going disturbingly awry.
Fueled by alcohol and unresolved childhood abandonment issues, Harrold quickly moves through the stages to be a full-fledged spousal abuser. He is an up and coming New York journalist and moves to seduce the new employee at his office. Maureen, being the newly employed journalist is beautiful, idealistic and malleable. Harrold begins his abuse predictably. Remorseful at first, he promises that the abuse will never happen again. Of course, they do and the empty promises continue while Maureen prays that indeed, this will be the last time. Through courtship, early marriage, pregnancy and post partum, the cycle continues and the tension mounts.
Maureen, unsupported and isolated, frightened and repeatedly threatened by her husband suffers for herself and her infant daughter. Fearing for her daughter after one horrific beating, she is finally motivated to escape. Waiting for her husband to lapse into alcoholic unconsciousness, bleeding and literally beaten to a pulp, she takes a few possessions, the baby, and the money in her husband's pocket. She escapes into the night to drive north to any destination far enough away from the hell she has been in. The story shares how the people in town were effected by this young woman with a baby. Maureen changes her name and tries to blend in to the anonymity which she needs to have to elude her husband. The consequences of her actions leave the town changed forever.
Unfortunately, at this time in social history, spousal abuse awareness was in it's infancy and support for the victims virtually absent. The majority of people chose to ignore the obvious signs and symptoms, justifying their inability to intervene with morally contrived comments that it was somehow inappropriate to interfere in any "man's" personal family life. For the victim, it was truly a nightmare of immense proportion and social isolation.
The book is a remarkable insight into the mindframe of a 1970's victim, abuser, family and bystanders. Group readers will have plenty to grieve, celebrate and expound on. This is a thought provoking novel that continues after the book has been finished. I felt the title even revealed the misunderstanding of spousal abuse at the time. Justified as passion, a man was legislatively allowed to "rape" his wife. I can hear the old statements "she threw a fit" and needed to be "knocked into place." This is when passion and emotions cross the proverbial line and Anita Shreve makes it crystal clear that it is nothing but what it is - abuse.
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5.0 out of 5 stars pulls you in from the first page - 17 yr old student, Sept. 28 2002
By 
"creekcrazy" (Australia, sydney) - See all my reviews
This is my second shreve book, the first one i read was Fortunes rocks, and i was worried that this one wouldnt live up to how great fortunes rocks was, well i can safely say that it did live up to fortunes rocks, and i think was even better. The book was so amazingly written, and like in fortunes rocks you get little snippets of whats to come, so you HAVE to keep reading to discover more details. The story is told from several peoples point of view, which in my opinion made it all the more realistic and wasnt at all confusing. I read this book in just under a day and half, thats how engrossed i was, fortunes rocks took me just under a week.
What i like the most about Shreve is that the 2 books i have mentioned are 2 different storylines, 2 different eras, and 2 different styles of writing, but the one thing they have in commmon and the thing that makes them so worth reading is the raw emotion that they both have, you feel the characters joy, pain and fears, you sympathise with their situations and you hope for the happy ending they deserve.
The characters of both books leave a lasting impression on you for months to come!
If your after an interesting read, this is the book for you.
Esp interesting was each characters view on abuse, and esp the victims, i found it very interesting the way she saw herself
Highly reccomend, and you wont be dissapointed - BTW if i ever found a Shreve book i didnt like, it WOULDNT stop me from reading any of her others because they are all different.
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5.0 out of 5 stars PAINFUL, COMPASSIONATE STORY, May 21 2002
By 
This is one of Anita Shreve's best novels, in my opinion.......Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York Cty journalists appear to have a very good marriage and they have a beautiful baby. No one is aware of the abuse going on behind closed doors. not even Maureen's mother...... Maureen hid all this abuse from everyone, but when she became afraid that Harrold would harm his daughter, she took all the money her husband had in his wallet and while he was passed out drunk she fled into the night with her daughter, Carolne who was just a baby.....She drove from NYC to a small seaside town in Maine to begin a new life as Mary Amesbury. She rented a small cottage by the sea from Julia, a widow......Mary settles down and slowly meets the citizens of this small fishing village and makes friends .....As she begins to feel safe she has to take her daughter to a doctor who had to fax her pediatrician back in NYC to find out what medications Cariline is allergic to.....Her husband is able to trace her whereabouts thru the pediatrician's office and arrives at Mary's house and seriously beats her again.......This story has a violent, unforgettable ending as the town is left with one murder, a suicide, and three children left without mothers......This is a very well structured tale. I don't think you will be disappointed if you read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Fits of Passion, May 21 2002
By 
Laurie Reeves (Cypress, California United States) - See all my reviews
I love everything Anita Shreve writes...but feel that this one is extraordinary...it felt interactive it was written so well.I could feel Maureens pain and since of defeat so vividly.I loved the cottage...experiencing how comfortable she must have felt there.And as always the descriptions of the New England coast is spellbinding...although in this story it takes on a sinister life of its own.The sea,the fog etc. become characters in the story. For anyone who has come any where close to actually living through this type of thing,the most powerful sentence in the whole book has only two word...when Harrold says"---- Caroline" something in Maureen shifts so severely that you know she has reached the point of no return...this is much more of a defining moment than any of the physical assaults she has endured have been for her.I have read "Black and Blue" by Anna Quindlin and although it is a powerful story it compares to this book like a made for tv movie might compare to a Big Screen production. I was happy to hear Anita Shreve read from "Sea Glass" and get my books signed at the UCLA/LA Times Festival of Books a few weeks ago.I must urge everyone who has not read all of her books yet to read them in the order that she has written them..you will be rewarded if you do!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tale of domestic violence in another era, March 12 2002
By 
C. Miller "chrysalis13" (Irving, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is my 4th Shreve novel. She hooked me with The Last Time They Met and then The Weight of Water, and disappointed me with Where or When. Strange Fits of Passion, however, grabbed me from beginning to end.
Living as I do in the year 2002,and having grown up in the end of the century, I needed the reminder that as recently as 30 years ago, women did not have the options or laws to deal with abuse that we have today.
I felt that Shreve captured the way situations of abuse haven't changed much over the last thirty years, yet the way society reacts has. A jury judging an abused woman's actions today knows a lot more about abuse abuse and consequences, since the problem is so much more publicized and understood now. But of course, today Maureen would have had many more resources for getting out of the situation rather than just "going it alone."
In addition, Shreve shows how we can let each other down (i.e. the journalist, Willis) in ways that can affect the outcomes of our lives. I found this to be an important thread of the story, since you could say these two characters had as much to do with the direction Maureen's life took as her husband did.
The author's writing flows in such a manner that I finish her novels rather quickly, though she is not short on description or character development. I highly recommend this novel.
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Strange Fits of Passion
Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve (Paperback - Sept. 16 2005)
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