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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you could want
I always enjoy Anita Shreves writing. Her style is a beautiful elegant prose which is descriptive without being wordy. This is my favorite of her books and I have passed it to all my reading friends (to universal praise). Ms Shreve is often described as a romance writer altough there is really nothing romantioc about this book. Nicholas Van Tassel recounts the story of...
Published on 14 Mar 2006

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I struggled to finish it
I have read 5 of her books - and this is ranks fifth in my opinion. There are two major protagonists - neither of which I was drawn too - and in fact found distasteful most of the time. I expect this is how we are meant to feel - since the book reflects the many lives that are lived without passion or love. I had to force myself to keep reading throughout the book, and...
Published on 30 Jan 2004


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you could want, 14 Mar 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
I always enjoy Anita Shreves writing. Her style is a beautiful elegant prose which is descriptive without being wordy. This is my favorite of her books and I have passed it to all my reading friends (to universal praise). Ms Shreve is often described as a romance writer altough there is really nothing romantioc about this book. Nicholas Van Tassel recounts the story of his relationship with Etna Bliss, it is curiously one sided as Etnas actions are described from Nicholas' view and her voice is only heard once through a series of brief letters. What emerges is a study of Nicholas' character. An educated man in a Victorian world his flaws are dissected with a clarity which still allows you to retain some sympathy for him despite his behaviour. Etna remains for us as she does for him an unknown quanitity despite his passion for her. As their relationship is descibed by an older Nicholas through its almost inevitable unraveling it builds to a disturbing climax which leaves you reflecting on how much anyone knows about the people they love
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fate of Unrequited Love, 27 Dec 2008
By 
C. Calisgil "Leyla" (Somerset, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
This is the story not of an evil man, rather of a 'sad' man - an unexceptional man, who nevertheless wants success. Now sixty-four, Nicholas van Tassel tells his own story; how, at the turn of the 20th century and at the age of thirty, a bachelor and professor at a New England college, his eyes fall upon Etna Bliss and from that moment he's a man obsessed. He must have her and he will have her under any conditions. Etna is a woman of her time and a victim of circumstances which she sees as beyond her control - marriage seems a solution, even though she admits to Nicholas that she doesn't love him. His love for her, however, is so overwhelming that he believes she will, in time, learn to return that love. A recipe for disaster of course, heightened by the fact that he discovers on their wedding night that his wife is not a virgin! The years pass and the couple have two children; all appears well even though Etna has never found any passion for her husband. Then, fourteen years later, a newcomer arrives at the College and this sets a series of ripples in motion. Jealousy is born within Nicholas as he feels threatened; this time he will do what he has to in order to hold onto what he sees as his - both in his personal and professional life. At this time, Etna, although constrained by the conventions of that age, has a spark of independence in her and it's the actions that result from this free spirit that eventually cause the death of the marriage. Van Tassel, however, is even then reluctant to admit defeat and in trying desperately to win her back, he reduces himself to lies and deceit. Anita Shreve has created a real-life character in Van Tassel; we are able to observe how the gift of love can just as easily turn into a curse. And love has no respect for intelligence - all are equal when caught in its thrall and all can find themselves capable of acting upon baser instincts when loss is threatened. A good read(and this was second time 'round for me!).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I struggled to finish it, 30 Jan 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
I have read 5 of her books - and this is ranks fifth in my opinion. There are two major protagonists - neither of which I was drawn too - and in fact found distasteful most of the time. I expect this is how we are meant to feel - since the book reflects the many lives that are lived without passion or love. I had to force myself to keep reading throughout the book, and whilst it was satisfying to finally know the reason for such chilliness within the protagonists hearts I did not find the book worth the effort. It's written in a dry tone to reflect the dryness of the marriage. I found myself wishing I knew the other people's stories - not that of Nicholas. Unsatisfying, and vaguely depressing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and evocative., 15 Sep 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
Not by any means a happy read, but one which no doubt reflects the experience of many. Shreves writing captures the hope of a man desperately in love and constantly hoping to receieve what is in his heart to give. As a male reader I was intrigued at her insight into the male psyche, and the elegance with which she explores the confusion and pain of the central character. If you have known the pain of unrequited love, the grasp of false hope, then you will identify with, and be absorbed by this book. A number of reviews are negative, yet I found this the most intriguing of stories, perhaps because of its realism
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different type of novel from Shreve, 24 July 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted
This book marks a change of tone for Shreve, but if anything shows her as a more mature writer. Having read and enjoyed all her previous novels (with the exception of 'The Pilot's Wife') I approached this one with the same sense of expectation - I was not disappointed. Though quieter, many of the usual themes are there, but handled almost at a distance: we see almost everything through the skewed vision of the narrator. The moment I finished this novel I knew it was one I will read again at some stage, to savour slowly. This is a beautiful novel and will mark Shreve's transition to a new stage in her writing - to put it bluntly, this one could find its way on to a literature syllabus. If you have yet to read it, I envy you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different, 2 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted
As stated by previous reviewers, Ms Shreve has deviated from her usual style of writing to produce "All He Ever Wanted". The novel is set in the late 19th/early 20th century and the author writes from the perspective of a man who has been in love with (and obsessed with) one woman, Etna Bliss, for almost all of his adult life. He makes it his mission to win Etna and begins to pursue her until she marries him. However, on the wedding night, he believes that he is not the only man that has ever known Etna intimately and this knowledge consumes him with jealousy and his subsequent actions (although he still adores Etna) achieve the opposite of what he hopes for. Although this novel is quite different from others written by Anita Shreve, it is still very compelling and rather poignant. My only criticism is the way that certain passages seem to ramble on about things that are circumstantial to the storyline, but to the extent that they become boring (I found myself skimming over these parts) and therefore I've only awarded it 4 stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting read, 8 Mar 2004
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
I struggled through the first chapter or two of this book, then it swept me up and I didn't put it down until I had finished. The language is old-fashioned and a little flowery yet works well to draw the reader in to the story. The story is told by a college professor looking back over his marriage which took place 30-odd years before. The old man feels the need to explain his marriage to his son who is about to become a father.
Nicholas Van Tassel meets Etna Bliss when they both escape from the dining room of the local hotel which happens to be burning down around their ears. From the start Van Tassel is overwhelmed with longing for Etna. Even when they are married he never stops longing for her. While she becomes his wife, Etna never gives herself to her husband in any sense of the word. In many ways she remains a stranger to both him and to the reader. We only ever hear her husband's version of events, apart from a few letters he discovers. Etna is a woman of secrets and all is not revealed by the book.
This is a good story that is beautifully written. I was fully absorbed by it and once it got going it was never dull. All the major characters are deserving of sympathy in their own way and I spent most of the book knowing it was knowing it was all going to end in tears but hoping it wouldn't. There is no simple happy ending to this book, although it isn't totally without hope, which felt very right. A happy ending would have been a cop-out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cleverly written view of a marriage, 27 Jun 2005
By 
Ms. K. E. Glaisher "Cooroo" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
The world is full of romances with happy endings, often poorly written. Some of the above reviewers were hoping for yet another.
This is my first Shreve and I was delighted. The first person narrative forces us to have some sympathy with the narrator, although it soon becomes apparent that he is not very likeable. Eventually he compounds all his earlier faults with a massive wrong-doing that cannot be accepted. The heroine, a woman trapped by her time and circumstances, does her best to live a compromise.
This is a dark story, and beautifully crafted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What has happened to the Anita Shreve we know and love?, 13 May 2006
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This review is from: All He Ever Wanted (Paperback)
I am a massive fan of Anita Shreve but it seems I am now only a fan of her earlier books. Long awaited I found this book a let down - after reading Fortunes Rocks, Last Time They Met and Strange Fits of Passion. All fantastic books. I could not relate or even like the characters in this book and found it difficult to read. I do enjoy her writing style, which is why i've given it a 2 instead of a 1 but I would not recommend this to any Anita Shreve 'virgin'.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed Shreve fan, 4 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: All He Ever Wanted
This book is such a disappointment. Her use of the male voice just doesn't work. And yet again the book has an historical setting. When will she write another contemporary novel? This book reads as though it was one of her earlier works and has been pulled out of a drawer to satisfy her publishers. I have given it three stars because even a poor Anita Shreve is better than none, but it's really not a great read.
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All He Ever Wanted
All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve (Paperback - 1 Jan 2004)
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