Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson is set in a sleepy university town a couple hours outside of New York City. The novel has a familiar cast of characters: an author, a book critic and the women who loved them.
We do not know the identity of the narrator until the end of the novel. We only know that she's done her best to piece the story together. The novel begins a year and a half after the death of author Wyatt Strayed. His widow, Catherine, is forced to supplement her bookseller income by renting out the cottage behind her home.
The new tenant is Henry, the book critic who ruined Wyatt's literary career with a few choice words. And he's also Catherine's former lover. Henry's current companion is Antonia Lively, a promising author with a new book, whose next book threatens to expose the long-buried secrets of all involved.
Henry regrets his negative review of Wyatt's book. In fact, he tries to repair the damage through essays in his own new book. But it's difficult to reverse death and destruction.
Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence had a few misses for me. The cadence of the storytelling took some awkward chronological leaps. It was as if the author held tightly to a remote control and would fast-forward at will.
I also felt that Levinson couldn't quite grasp his female characters. It was difficult to sympathize with such flighty women who relied so heavily on wine and cigarettes. And some of their actions made me want to slap my head in frustration.
The irony of reviewing a book about the aftermath of a negative book review is not lost on me. In fact, this book made me second-guess myself. But as the narrator says in the prologue, "Give the reader a good story, and he'll forgive just about everything else."