ISBN:9780349115580
Binding:Paperback

A man escaping from a hotel fire sees a woman standing beneath a tree. He approaches her and sets in motion a series of events that will change his life forever. Years later, travelling from New England to Florida by train, he reflects back on his obsession with this unknown and ultimately unknowable woman -- his courtship of her, his marriage to her, and the unforgivable act that ripped their family apart. Spanning three decades from 1899 to 1933, ALL HE EVER WANTED gives us a tale of marriage, betrayal and the search for redemption. It has the unmatched attention to details of character, place and emotion that have made Anita Shreve one of the world's best-loved and bestselling novelists. Review: *'A painful tale of obsession ... impeccably done SUNDAY TIMES Shreve is prolific, polished, unputdownable. Above all, she delivers serious topics with a readable touch GUARDIAN Fluent and purposeful in its portrayal of the despair and claustrophobia seething beneath an ordered surface SUNDAY TIMES Etna is a woman operating under rigorous and agonising self-discipline. Volcanic passions exist beneath her submissive facade JOANNE HARRIS Review: Anita Shreve's earlier novels have proved her to be a sensitive analyst of the most intricate workings of the heart. She does not deal with the fervent rollercoaster of love, but rather the simmering cauldron, the barely suppressed desire, the nature of secrecy and the power of betrayal. This latest novel is vintage Shreve; with her customary grace, she dissects the marriage of Nicholas van Tassel and Etna Bliss to expose the raw misery of a passion which is not reciprocated. Nicholas first catches sight of the elegant Etna Bliss in the aftermath of a hotel fire. A somewhat pompous, studious college professor, bound up with his work on Sir Walter Scott and unable to relate to his students, van Tassel finds himself embroiled in an inexplicable passion for this beautiful, distant woman. Passion quickly becomes obsession - he is determined nothing shall stand in the way of their marriage. Despite her initial refusal of his proposal, van Tassel does offer Etna a means of escape from the claustrophobic confines of her sister's house. She makes no secret of her lack of affection for Nicholas - 'This must be said: I do not love you' - but he is convinced that time and a growing physical intimacy will warm her heart towards him. Nicholas's hopes are destined to be dashed, however, as the couple fail to find any spark of sexual compatibility. Nicholas is distraught when he realizes his adored Etna is not a virgin on their wedding night - unable to confront her about her past, this knowledge eats away at him, until his jealousy becomes even more obsessive than his desire. The years drift by, two children are born and it seems that an accommodation of sorts has been reached; Nicholas is up for the post of Dean of Thrupp College, and feels certain that he will be elected. But the arrival of a handsome young academic to deliver a series of lectures shatters this illusion. Long-buried passions resurface, secrets are revealed and as he senses everything he wanted crumbling around him, Nicholas is driven to terrible lengths in order to cling on to his wife and his sanity. This is a brilliant and painful exploration of hopeless love. (Kirkus UK) Review: Shreve (Sea Glass, 2002, etc.) daringly makes the bad guy her narrator in a creepy tale of relentless love. Nicholas Van Tassel may not seem so awful at first, as he describes the hotel fire in the winter of 1899 that introduced him to Etna Bliss. We quickly see that this 30-year-old English professor at Thrupp College in New Hampshire is pompous, ambitious, and something of a hypocrite, as well as a minor plagiarist, but we're inclined to sympathy thanks to Nicholas's immediate passion for Etna. Her mother has recently died, she's living temporarily with her uncle, and the future seems to promise little more to this regal and mysterious woman than life as an unpaid governess to her sister's children. Unless she marries Nicholas, that is, who isn't above pressing his suit on those grounds. She accepts, making sure he knows that "I don't think that I could . . . love you . . . in the way that a wife must love a husband." (Their sex life, in fact, proves a disaster.) We already know through Nicholas's framing narration, from September 1933, that this marriage has turned out badly-but the story's central section, from fall 1914 through spring 1915, reveals just how badly-and just how far Nicholas is prepared to go to assert his desires. As he campaigns to be named dean of Thrupp's faculty, he learns that Etna has a secret independent life. It's entirely innocent, but that doesn't stem Nicholas's rage, especially when he learns that his wife had a lover before they were married. Shreve lets her narrator damn himself by his own sanctimonious words as he stoops to Jew-baiting, marital rape, and persuading his teenaged daughter to tell a catastroph

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