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Book Review of Fortune's Rocks

Fortune's Rocks
Fortune's Rocks
Author: Anita Shreve
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
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I read Fortune's Rocks but will apply this caveat: My book club made me do it.

This was my first Anita Shreve novel, and I was not impressed. For starters, the premise is rather absurd and more than a little creepy: a highly educated 15-year-old girl falls in love with a highly respected 41-year-old doctor and married father of four. Shreve does a poor job of actually defining their relationship in any terms other than the physical. You are never really let in on either character's heart, never really shown any of the deeper insights into the spiritual or psychological nature of their feelings. There is very little for the reader to hold on to, to empathize with, or to understand.

There was also something in the character development that just seemed...forced. While Shreve attempted to breathe a sense of life, passion, and originality into all of her characters, it seems that none of her efforts really took. Everyone seemed to be missing that important "something" that would have transformed them from two dimensional ideas of characters into living, breathing beings that could transcend the page and become real.

This was a period piece, and Shreve's somewhat awkward efforts to recreate that era made the story feel more artificial than authentic. Complicated descriptions of fabrics and clothing made me feel like Shreve was simply trying too hard. The random attempts at period language (cues during childbirth to "strain as if at stool") and hokey cliches made most of the dialogue feel stilted and contrived.

I am all for reading a novel about romance (ie: Jane Eyre) but this book felt more like a grocery store romance novel with an identity crisis. I felt like it was trying to cover up its romance novel roots by throwing in forward-thinking social commentary about mill workers, culture wars, and custody laws in turn-of-the-century New England, in the hope that no one would notice. Despite the 26-year age difference of the main characters, the book had potential. Unfortunately, Shreve just wasn't able to deliver. It's not a book I'd be likely to recommend.