Friday, October 30, 2009

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve (a review)

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve is the story of newlywed Margaret, who follows her husband Patrick to Kenya shortly after their marriage. Once there, they meet a British couple, Arthur and Diana, who invite them to join a climbing expedition up Mount Kenya with another couple. The trip ends in tragedy, which causes Margaret to reevaluate her life and her marriage.

Last year, I read Testimony, Shreve’s previous novel, and was quite disappointed to find myself not enjoying it because I consider Shreve to be one of my favourite authors (read my review). Unfortunately, I felt the same way about this novel: the story failed to engage me. Although Margaret is a sympathetic character, I never connected with her. It seemed to me that Shreve kept her at arm’s length; I wanted to get into her head more. And the tragedy unfortunately struck me as a bit ridiculous—I felt impatient with the character who felt responsible for what happened, when it seemed clear to me that responsibility lay elsewhere (how’s that for not giving anything away?). Worse still, despite the liberal sprinkling of African words throughout the novel (so much so that I wished there was a glossary included in the book) and despite the fact that Shreve actually lived in Kenya for several years, the country never really came alive for me. Instead, the subplot involving Arthur and Diana’s servants felt predictable and forced. Overall, I wish I’d followed my own advice (which I mentioned in my review of Testimony): skip the latest Shreve book and read one of her earlier ones instead.

To read other reviews (many of them more favourable than mine), head over to these blogs:
A Novel MenagerieBibliophile by the SeaBook Nook ClubForeign Circus LibraryJo-Jo Loves to ReadLaura’s ReviewsLuxury ReadingPresenting LenoreS. Krishna’s Books

Thank you to Hachette for sending me this book to review.


  1. Sorry to see this isn't up to her normally high standards.

  2. I really liked Testimony, but this one did absolutely nothing for me.

  3. Too bad this one wasn't what it you had hoped for. I'm just getting ready to write a review for this one, and although I did enjoy the book, it wasn't one of my favorites by Shreve.

  4. I have a friend who has read ever Shreve book but has been disappointed of late. She felt like Shreve was back with this one but she did minor in African studies so that setting really helped her to enjoy the book. Sorry to hear that this one was a disappoint to you.

  5. I totally agree with you. This book was a disappointment in comparison to all of her other books.

  6. Yikes!! I won Testimony, just haven't read it yet. But I will pass on this one!! Thanks for the honest and great review!

  7. "Testimony" was my first Shreve book and I didn't love it all that much. Perhaps I'll try on of her earlier ones instead. I have "The Pilot's Wife" already but never read it. Is that worthwhile?

  8. I am so sorry to hear that this book was a disappointment. I have really enjoyed all of Shreve's books that I've read and consider her a favorite author. But all the books I've read have been older ones, I haven't read any of her recent ones yet.
    Hopefully this is an anomaly.

  9. Sorry to hear you didn't love this one, but you're not alone. I've seen more so-so reviews of this one than positive ones. I have this one from my library now, but may not get to it this time around...

  10. Kathy, I was definitely disappointed. I'm considering demoting her from her favourite author status...

    Colleen, I'm glad I'm not the only one not to have enjoyed this one.

    Jo-Jo, I'll keep an eye out for your review.

    Lisa, maybe it was just me, but for me her descriptions of Africa fell flat.

    Diane, since I unfortunately didn't like Testimony either, I'm starting to feel like this is a trend...

    Staci, I hope you enjoy Testimony. Have you read any of her other books?

    Jenners, I loved The Pilot's Wife and have actually been meaning to reread it. I hope you enjoy it too!

    Amy, like you I'm a fan of her earlier books, so I think I'm going to concentrate on reading her backlist now.

    Melissa, there is some comfort in not being alone, at least!

  11. Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors, too, so I'm looking forward to reading this one despite the mixed reviews. I also didn't think Testimony was as good as her previous novels, but it was still pretty good.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  12. I really hope you enjoy it more than I did, Anna! I look forward to reading your review.