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Testimony
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2009
This is the first of Anita Shreve's books that I have read and after this one I will definitely give some of her others a try. I happened across this one in a bookshop. The first page had me hooked and I bought it right away. I found myself picking it up at every available moment - even wishing at one point I could stay off work to finish it.

This book really excels in its telling of the tale from a number of different angles, a concept Shreve employs well. On the whole, the voices of the characters Shreve creates really do ring true - quite a feat when you realise the range of ages, professions and view points she is portraying. I really enjoyed reading the various characters' reactions to what happened that night and the fall-out from it. If I were to say anything negative, it would be that the attitudes expressed by Silas and Noelle seemed to be those of much older (and mature) couple and it made me doubt their relationship a little. I also felt that a few of the testimonies in the middle of the novel could have been edited out as they didn't really reveal any extra dimensions to the character or the plot.

All things considered though, Shreve's tale of responsibility and the consequences following dubious actions is well worth reading!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2009
I was quite taken aback to see that there were people who could not stand this book (but then, one man's meat... etc). I absolutely loved it. What's not to like? I love the multi-faceted angles and narrative style that Anita Shreve employed in telling this story. She uses first, second and third person narrative in the book and for me it worked very well. Undoubtedly, some characters come of stronger than others, but that is to be expected. And for me, the book did not lag in anyway. I ended up devouring it in record time. Through the characters, the story reinforces strongly that actions do have consequences (some of which could be catastrophic) and we ought to be prepared to face those consequences whenever we make decisions or act (no matter how impromptu these may be or how trivial they may initially seem).

Having read roughly a hundred books in the first six months of this year, I would go out on a limb and say that this is probably the best book I have read so far this year.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
This is an engaging story told from many viewpoints - it builds an engrossing tale of hopes and dreams held and broken on the sides of the young people, their teachers and their parents. The characters are so real and believable, they jump off the page. I think it would be a well appreciated book on a teenager's list as much as an adult read. Anita Shreve has her finger on the pulse of life today in America and she deserves her place amongst the most well loved and enjoyed authors. Any new book by her is desirable and this one particularly so. Quite a quick read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is the first novel by Shreve that I have read. Perhaps because I came to it with no expectations in regard to her writing style, I enjoyed it more than the previous reviewer to me. However, I can also see their point.

TESTIMONY is the story of a sex tape scandal at a boarding school in a relatively small community in Vermont. The novel tells of how this tape and the contents on it has repercussions, not just for those who featured in it, but also for others. Shreve splits the narrative between a few different characters who became involved in the event and its aftermath, offering the reader different viewpionts on the same event. And in some ways, this works well. But there are a few letdowns. As the other reviewer stated, Shreve tends to repeat various views again and again, rather than developing them further. However, I think the fact that you are never really given a 'proper' reason for the tape, actually adds something to what is behind this novel - that one stupid moment in a person's life can change the path they are to take and have consequences which they would never have imagined.

TESTIMONY is not the sort of book which grips you from the first page and keeps you in its thrall - I must admit that I had to persevere with it as it is not a page turner in the sense that you are on the edge of your seat, desperately wanting to know what will happen next. This book, although quite good, is more subtle than that.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2009
This is a very good book and proves that Shreve is back on form with her latest novel. The last few have been a disappointment but here she weaves together the 'testimonies' of a number of particpants in a school scandal in a thoughtful and provoking fashion. A beautifully written book that stays with you long after reading the final page.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The headteacher of an exclusive private Vermont boarding school catering for children from 14 to 19 years old receives a video tape of a series of sexual acts being performed by three senior male students with a freshman junior girl. The rumours abound (it's now on You Tube), the names of all the participants are known, the only secret that is never divulged is: who did the filming? Though we do find out why it was kept a secret towards the end of the novel. What we need to know, almost urgently, is why did this happen? But there can't be a why, not really, because the `because' is simply a `because.' No one is definitively to blame. All of them could have at some point or other, declined to take part any further. There might be a valid `why?' to the act of filming the sex - but that is not addressed in the novel. Another valid why? might be the question of senior students with a girl so much younger than themselves - but the question of age disparity doesn't arise so much as become a part of the understandably retributive aftermath. The girl was not coerced - yet she might have felt she was, naively or knowingly, enjoying the attention, or secretly scared to say no to them? Or might she have expected young men, so much older than her, to call a halt to proceedings? Yet what testosterone-fuelled young man could be relied upon to do that?

The novel concentrates very much on the adult's reaction to this career-wrecking incident - even though it wrecks the chances of the `children' involved too. Marriages break up, (some were heading for the rocks anyway). The headteacher tries to keep the incident within the campus, but it inevitably escapes and the school's reputation is trashed, as a media-storm erupts.

This is a sometimes rather jaggedly delivered story, told by both participants and onlookers, and it's true, as another reviewer remarks here, there is not much to distinguish them from one another. Most don't, anyhow, have much of great importance to say. But there is a fascinating dilemma at its heart, who do you blame? All seem equally culpable, which makes this an honest book and a compelling read, though the very sad finale is foreshadowed from quite an early stage.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 13 February 2010
I'm not a die-hard Shreve fan: I've read a couple of her books and have found them very mixed with a tendency to over-sugar the sentiments. However this sounded a bit more robust - a sex scandal in an American private school - and so I gave it a go.

This is structured as a series of fragmented narratives, not necessarily in the first person. But because there are so many voices involved the story felt very bitty and awkward, with some parts no more than a page or two. I also felt that after the initial `crime' there was a very slow period of going back to catch-up on who all the participants are as well as their family backgrounds rather than focusing on what happened in the main narrative.

Another reviewer has mentioned Shreve's age (I didn't know she was in her 60s) and I agree that this is a book that I think would appeal to an older readership, based as it is on a generational gap and a kind of `aren't kids today terrible' kind of attitude. I'm not condoning the act with which this book starts but it was clear the author had no empathy with the teenagers at all, and therefore a very unnuanced view of the whole episode.

Didactic and actually quite unpleasant, I'm really glad I got this from the library rather than having spent money on it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2009
Testimony

Headmaster Mike Bordwin, receives an explicit sex tape involving several students at his boarding school, and clearly filmed in one of its dormitories. This is a scandal which he and the school can well do without, and which he initially hopes to cover up. Several students are expelled, losing coveted places to the best universities, and ruining promising academic careers. Some staff also lose their jobs, and relationships buckle under the strain. The school suffers reducing student numbers and less financial support from generous benefactors.

The author takes us back to events leading up to the scandal, and shows lives unraveling afterwards, for each of the main characters.
One drunken event, a shocking loss of innocence, results in lives being altered forever.

Uncomfortable at times, but brilliantly written - highly recommended
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2009
My opinion relates only to the first half of this book because I'm not reading any more. It's like a punishment someone set out for me before bed each day. If the second half of this book is going to suddenly become consequential, insightful and cleverly written, don't tell me about it because I simply can't bear to pick it up again.

First of all, I am underwhelmed by the alleged enormity of the central act in this book: Teenagers having videotaped sex. I understand that Shreve is in her sixties now but we can't use her age as an excuse for her outraged sensibility because she grew up in the 1960's and is writing in the 21st century. How can she justify these exaggerated postures of shock and horror over an act which at worst shows poor judgement on the part of teenagers? Like that's never happened before.

Secondly,the narrative mode irritates on many levels. Shreve chooses to tell us the story from the points of view of about twenty different characters(I've read ten but I'm sure she's not going to stop there). Problem is, that each of these narrative voices are all essentially the same. The differences are superficial and patronising;if it's a young narrator, they speak in short, jerky sentences and use "like" to punctuate sentences. Characters from the older generation are allowed longer, less idiomatic sentences. Everyone has the same voice, which is Anita Shreve's reflective, regretful,it's-not-my-fault voice. If it wasn't for the character's name heading the chapter you'd have no idea who was talking,only which generation they belonged to.

That's, like, all I'm saying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Anita Shreve is a consummate story -teller and, once again, she comes up trumps with Testimony. It is a fairly straightforward story of a sex scandal in a private school in Vermont. It is told mainly from the points of view of numerous characters in the process of offering information to a university researcher some time after the event. Needless to say the reader is left uncertain as to which of the testimonies tell the whole truth and who chooses to embellish the facts to make themselves look better. She gets the tone of the differing statements just right.

There are no amazing revelations but what we are left with is the disaster caused to so many lives by young people who were foolish rather than wicked. All very believable.

A very quick and enjoyable read.
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