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One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s. Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have be One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s. Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have been accidental, or a suicide, or perhaps even murder. But after his death, instead of leaving the secluded college town to which he had brought her, she simply tries to go on with her life there. When her former mentor, who had also briefly been her lover—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively who has written a novel that has become a literary sensation. She insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, and mysterious and frightening things start to happen as, unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman sets out to steal the truth of her life and the death of her husband so that she can plunder them for her next literary triumph. Levinson’s richly crafted characters and his tautly drawn plot mark the debut of an exciting young talent.


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One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s. Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have be One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s. Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have been accidental, or a suicide, or perhaps even murder. But after his death, instead of leaving the secluded college town to which he had brought her, she simply tries to go on with her life there. When her former mentor, who had also briefly been her lover—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively who has written a novel that has become a literary sensation. She insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, and mysterious and frightening things start to happen as, unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman sets out to steal the truth of her life and the death of her husband so that she can plunder them for her next literary triumph. Levinson’s richly crafted characters and his tautly drawn plot mark the debut of an exciting young talent.

30 review for Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence

  1. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I didn’t really feel much of anything after I finished this novel. Not happy, or sad, or anger, or despair, or excitement, or resentment. Even as I was reading ANTONIA LIVELY BREAKS THE SILENCE, my only desire was to set this book aside and move on to the next one. Instead of aiming to be either literary fiction or a mystery, this novel tried to combine elements of both, and the glue never quite seemed to gel. The novel might have been better served if it stepped back a bit and got out of its own I didn’t really feel much of anything after I finished this novel. Not happy, or sad, or anger, or despair, or excitement, or resentment. Even as I was reading ANTONIA LIVELY BREAKS THE SILENCE, my only desire was to set this book aside and move on to the next one. Instead of aiming to be either literary fiction or a mystery, this novel tried to combine elements of both, and the glue never quite seemed to gel. The novel might have been better served if it stepped back a bit and got out of its own way. Because there’s no question David Samuel Levinson has talent, and there’s no question he’s got a great career ahead of him, but I don’t think this is the book that is going to lead him to the Promised Land. To be fair, it’s not a bad book, but none of the characters really resonated with me. Pretty much all of the characters end up being unlikeable, their faults leaving more permanent marks than their assets. The story had me a bit lost at times, like I’d been jarred from the merry-go-round, and I was left staring up at the clouds from the flat of my back. And when it was all said and done, I was left feeling a bit helpless, more than a little lost, and more than a little hopeful that I’ll connect with my next read a bit more than I did this one. I received this book for free through NetGalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    Oh dear ... I'm not a critic but somehow this book was sold to me last week at a local bookstore ahead of its official release. It was not a good purchase. The story is vapid, empty of meaning or redemption and with an incredibly poor cast of characters (who were not well developed). I also found it irritating that none of the cast seem able to speak in more than one or two word sentences i.e. this "conversation" between Antonia and Ezra: "Where's Henry?" "Am I my father's keeper?" "That was a nast Oh dear ... I'm not a critic but somehow this book was sold to me last week at a local bookstore ahead of its official release. It was not a good purchase. The story is vapid, empty of meaning or redemption and with an incredibly poor cast of characters (who were not well developed). I also found it irritating that none of the cast seem able to speak in more than one or two word sentences i.e. this "conversation" between Antonia and Ezra: "Where's Henry?" "Am I my father's keeper?" "That was a nasty thing you did. I have been nothing but kind to you." He blinked at her, dumbfounded. "What ... I don't ... what are you talking about?" "Don't play stupid with me," she said sharply. "Where's my father?" he asked, rising. "I just asked you that. Besides Henry has nothing to do with this." Ezra was laughing, "He has everything to do with everything." Okay ... so seriously, that was taken from pg 141. There is no development of character and no development of thought either ... well, except when the only way the "plot" is presented is through the "thoughts" and "thinking" of the players in the story. They think of their pasts, their regrets, their wishes, their loved ones (living & dead) and drop information that is supposed to lead us to the point of the story. Then mysterious characters clumsily appear without introduction or meaning - from behind bushes or on darkened porches. What? Who are these people? Where do they belong? Well, to find out we must wait for a daughter, lover or widow to get alone so he/she can "think" this person in to the story by reminiscing in thought. So ... do you get it? Me either. I didn't even finish the book ... I spent too much time calling my daughter to read out loud some of the insipid lines from almost every page. It was just taking too much time. ... so from that you get the point. Or maybe you don't. I know I didn't.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Owen

    I had so much fun reading this book. Not because the subject matter is particularly fun, but because it felt like a mystery or a melodrama throughout the entire book. I understand it is about death and other serious things, but it fits the whole small-town-many-mysteries idea well. After the death of her husband Wyatt, Catherine Strayed is trying to cope with her life in her upstate New York town. She works in a bookstore and is surrounded by writers, things that constantly remind her of her late I had so much fun reading this book. Not because the subject matter is particularly fun, but because it felt like a mystery or a melodrama throughout the entire book. I understand it is about death and other serious things, but it fits the whole small-town-many-mysteries idea well. After the death of her husband Wyatt, Catherine Strayed is trying to cope with her life in her upstate New York town. She works in a bookstore and is surrounded by writers, things that constantly remind her of her late husband- who was also a successful novelist. Things get more complicated when a man by the name of Henry shows up. He had an affair with Catherine when she was a college student and because of the breakup, he used his position as a well known book critic to trash Wyatt’s novel. When he comes to stay in Catherine’s cottage, she has to figure out how to get over her anger toward him while at the same time respecting her late husband. The writing in this book held my attention the entire time. At times it felt like a mystery or a comedy or whodunit, but at other times it got pretty sad. The author did a good job of creating an interesting plot with enough back-story, and all of the characters were great. One thing I was confused about was the time in which it took place because all of the writers had typewriters but when I looked at the description of the book after reading it, I saw that it took place in the 1990s. I don't think that was mentioned in the book, unless I missed it. The ending was sort of surprising and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It went along with what was happening for most of the other parts of the book but it felt disconnected from the idea of who Wyatt was as a person, because we were never introduced to him. Literature enthusiasts and people that love books about writers will love this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    There is some good writing here and there, but the narrator is at best unreliable, maybe incompetent...the plot too thick with metaphorical smoke and characters sharing one another like cigarettes, ashes everywhere but the damn ashtray.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Merredith

    I felt like this book was trying too hard to be intelligent. For some reason, it was also reminiscent of Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch. The book is about a woman, Catherine, living in a small town near NYC in the mid-1980s. She never much wanted to live there, but did for her husband, a once-promising writer whose career was destroyed by a single review. After he died two or so years ago, she continued to live in the small town and work at a bookstore for a boss who was disrespectful and gave her al I felt like this book was trying too hard to be intelligent. For some reason, it was also reminiscent of Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch. The book is about a woman, Catherine, living in a small town near NYC in the mid-1980s. She never much wanted to live there, but did for her husband, a once-promising writer whose career was destroyed by a single review. After he died two or so years ago, she continued to live in the small town and work at a bookstore for a boss who was disrespectful and gave her almost no hours. Catherine ends up getting entangled with her ex advisor/ex-boyfriend/man who destroyed her husband’s career, and his new girlfriend, a very young up and coming writer, and things go from there. It sounds much more interesting than it was. Once in a while the narrator flips around, and while no one is particularly likable, the other people are better than Catherine. It was just ok, pretty pretentious. I don’t really recommend it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A good enough beach read....sort of juicy, sort of smart, sort of dark fun but just not quite enough of any of these things.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chaitra

    I have mixed feelings about Antonia Lively. As a few days have passed between ranking this book and writing this review, I feel I was generous in handing out my rating of 3 stars. Don't get me wrong. David Samuel Levinson can certainly write. It's what he chose to write about is what bothers me. Antonia Lively is set in a small college town in Upstate New York, and deals with a number of characters in the literary world. Wyatt, a now-dead one-time novelist; Catherine, his wife; Henry, her former I have mixed feelings about Antonia Lively. As a few days have passed between ranking this book and writing this review, I feel I was generous in handing out my rating of 3 stars. Don't get me wrong. David Samuel Levinson can certainly write. It's what he chose to write about is what bothers me. Antonia Lively is set in a small college town in Upstate New York, and deals with a number of characters in the literary world. Wyatt, a now-dead one-time novelist; Catherine, his wife; Henry, her former lover and the man who destroyed Wyatt's first novel and career; Antonia Lively, a brilliant young writer who is Henry's current flame, and their relationships with each other form the crux of the novel. There's also a side plot of Antonia's father and uncle being displeased and deranged about the short story that shot her off to fame, and all of it adds to the uneasiness and mystery that permeates this book. The premise is good. I like mysteries and I like books about authors and the blurb compared it to The Secret History which is a novel I love. But that's not true. I couldn't connect with the characters, I couldn't care what happened to any of them and I sure didn't see any of their appeal. Especially, I couldn't see the appeal of the lady-killer Henry. I can't even see why the man would be a respected critic considering his major cant is that fiction should not take any inspiration out of the author's or any real life. I find that ridiculous since it invalidates a major chunk of literature out there. I'm not disputing his existence, just his reputation and respectability within the novel's frame. Catherine mopes and Antonia is dislikable even when we don't know that she is repugnant and I didn't quite care for Wyatt's story. I also didn't like the fact that the novel plays coy with us. There are a few scenarios where everything is described or so we think at the time, and several pages down the line we come to know we were not told one small thing that's now going to be important. It also keeps doing the sudden reveal of some nasty detail during a rambling mental monologue. By the end of the book, nothing was really surprising. I even guessed quite a few of the details because they were convoluted and hence fit right in. The prose was good and the atmosphere excellent, however. I wish the story had been less busy, and that at least one of the characters more interesting than they were. As it is, it's not a book that appealed to me. 3 stars and declining in my mind. *** I received this book via NetGalley for review. ***

  8. 4 out of 5

    Allison Ketchell

    http://noranydroptoread.com/2013/10/2... The blurbs compare this title to THE SECRET HISTORY and REBECCA, so perhaps my expectations were too high with this novel. The premise: Catherine Strayed gave up her own career to support her husband’s writing, even moving to an insufferable small town to do so. When her former professor/lover, Henry Swallow (who is also the reviewer who destroyed her husband’s career), moves to town, things get awkward. Now widowed, she leads a quiet life until Antonia Li http://noranydroptoread.com/2013/10/2... The blurbs compare this title to THE SECRET HISTORY and REBECCA, so perhaps my expectations were too high with this novel. The premise: Catherine Strayed gave up her own career to support her husband’s writing, even moving to an insufferable small town to do so. When her former professor/lover, Henry Swallow (who is also the reviewer who destroyed her husband’s career), moves to town, things get awkward. Now widowed, she leads a quiet life until Antonia Lively, Henry’s latest protege, turns up at her door. First, the Big Ideas: What is fiction? What responsibilities does an author have? Who owns a story – the writer, or those who lived it? At what point is fiction separate from the reality that inspired it? These are certainly interesting questions, and Levinson explores them thoroughly. He doesn’t reach any Big Conclusion, but it would have been shocking if he had. As an intellectual exercise, this novel provokes discussion admirably. The plot: The “shocking” twists and turns are somewhat random, and Levinson relies overmuch on coincidence. One “revelation” surprised me only because the characters hadn’t realized it earlier. The pacing is very slow, and I’m a patient reader. Sixty pages in, I had only managed to reach the emotion “bored.” It took me two weeks to slog through the first 100 pages because I kept putting it down in favor of books that actually held my interest. The characters: ANTONIA LIVELY BREAKS THE SILENCE reminded me a bit of THE GREAT GATSBY, in the sense that it was very well-written, but I cared not a whit for any of the characters. I had developed some minor sympathy for Catherine by end of the first third, but then Levinson changed points of view, and I could barely be bothered to continue. There’s an “I” in the third-person-wandering point-of-view, and I believe I was supposed to be surprised when the identity is revealed. I wasn’t; rather, I couldn’t see the point. Something something clever metafiction, I suppose. Or something. I don’t have to like characters, but I need something besides an intellectual exercise to keep me going. If I hadn’t committed to write a review for this novel, I would have chucked it after the first sixty pages without concern that I would miss anything. Source disclosure: I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Townill

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Quick Thoughts: -A lot of the dialogue in 'Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence' was awkward and unnatural sounding. From the way 23 year old Antonia Lively speaks, to the way her uncle consistently calls her, "my dear niece." -So many things in this novel were bubbling with potential! A thriller based in the literary community? Deep family traumas and lies? Infidelity? Mysterious, closed off men? Sign me up! Unfortunately, I think Levinson was afraid to put his characters in the thick of these con Quick Thoughts: -A lot of the dialogue in 'Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence' was awkward and unnatural sounding. From the way 23 year old Antonia Lively speaks, to the way her uncle consistently calls her, "my dear niece." -So many things in this novel were bubbling with potential! A thriller based in the literary community? Deep family traumas and lies? Infidelity? Mysterious, closed off men? Sign me up! Unfortunately, I think Levinson was afraid to put his characters in the thick of these conflicts. Much of the conflict was internalized and told to us, rather than having the characters confront each other. Also, Antonia's Uncle Royal is a BIG source of fear and conflict in the story, yet every time he popped up, he was there for thirty seconds before disappearing again. Very passive. -Levinson created a character with Winslow, and I felt like I at least knew the place very well. The town became a living, breathing thing that I became a part of. -One of my favorite parts about reading thrillers is having an ending that makes you second guess every action of each character once you finish the novel. There were not enough seeds planted throughout the novel to give the ending a solid punch. The pacing of this novel also did not have the quick, un-put-downability that most thrillers come with.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Robertson

    I loved the premise of this book. I've always been a huge fan of books about writers. It's sort of thrilling, knowing that the writing life can be dramatic and interesting, right? However, while I found a lot of this writing to be lovely, I didn't really think that I got to connect with any of the characters. The shift between POV confused me; I didn't know how to feel about any of the characters, really. Even Catherine, who I thought I was supposed to empathaize with - feel for - I felt disconne I loved the premise of this book. I've always been a huge fan of books about writers. It's sort of thrilling, knowing that the writing life can be dramatic and interesting, right? However, while I found a lot of this writing to be lovely, I didn't really think that I got to connect with any of the characters. The shift between POV confused me; I didn't know how to feel about any of the characters, really. Even Catherine, who I thought I was supposed to empathaize with - feel for - I felt disconnected from her. I did not see the allure of Henry, or understand the fascination with Antonia, or yearn to know Wyatt's secrets. I felt like a bystander, reading an account of some lives that I felt very little for. I know this sounds harsh. I really did find the writing to be beautiful, though; the descriptions of heat in a small, slow town were stunning. I could feel that heat. I wish I felt the same pull towards the characters.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Piazza

    Truly lovely descriptive writing, and enough twists and turns to keep any reader interested. The novel starts off a little slow, but picks up pace and gets better and better and better. Recommend!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Janics

    I really did not enjoy this book. From my perspective it was overwritten.

  13. 5 out of 5

    CherylBCz

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I almost never rate a book 2 stars. The reason? It’s usually abandoned before complete. This one is a rare example. Kept me reading because the first half was decent and I kept hoping it was going to turn around. Ended up despising ALL of the characters. Catherine went off the deep end. Henry was unpalatable from the start (ok, you need one nemesis) Wyatt was elevated to a non-deserving hero. And don’t get me started on Jane. And Antonia, the title character (!) was not compelling. So, 1 star rev I almost never rate a book 2 stars. The reason? It’s usually abandoned before complete. This one is a rare example. Kept me reading because the first half was decent and I kept hoping it was going to turn around. Ended up despising ALL of the characters. Catherine went off the deep end. Henry was unpalatable from the start (ok, you need one nemesis) Wyatt was elevated to a non-deserving hero. And don’t get me started on Jane. And Antonia, the title character (!) was not compelling. So, 1 star review and 1 star for getting me to finish.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

    Really more like 3.5 stars. The writing was solid, detailed. Well-written, complex characters. The story took several surprising turns. However, by the end I felt the complexity of the story and the notion of a story in a story in a story (in a story? Too many damn writers and stories in this story.) on the affected side. Trying too hard. Overall a good read, perhaps just too dramatic for my taste.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margaret1358 Joyce

    This is kind of wacky parody of the literary community. It is interesting in that each character has a meta-fictional feel, and in that sense, testifies to the author's writing chops. As an actual fictional narrative, however, it is somewhat tepid -- understandable, as he was straddling two disparate lines of endeavor: a fictional plot and a parody of a plot. Kudos for even trying! This is kind of wacky parody of the literary community. It is interesting in that each character has a meta-fictional feel, and in that sense, testifies to the author's writing chops. As an actual fictional narrative, however, it is somewhat tepid -- understandable, as he was straddling two disparate lines of endeavor: a fictional plot and a parody of a plot. Kudos for even trying!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Simon Pert

    Bought this book a while back (nothing about loving the cover), decided it was time to read and what a great read it was. The twisting of the plot and the characters all of which you like and dislike in equal measure until it gets to the revealing at the end which I didn't see coming. A must read. Bought this book a while back (nothing about loving the cover), decided it was time to read and what a great read it was. The twisting of the plot and the characters all of which you like and dislike in equal measure until it gets to the revealing at the end which I didn't see coming. A must read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Catherine’s husband is dead, the critic she had a long ago affair with is in town, the new girl friend is in town and seeming to stalk Catherine and her late husband, and two close friends are pesky confidants.

  18. 4 out of 5

    LD

    Terrible. Unlikeable characters. Unbelievable coincidences. Ridiculous story. At times it made no sense at all. Major unresolved story arcs. I rarely write these but this book was a total waste of time. I kept hoping it would get better. It never did. Don’t Waste Your Time Like I did. Terrible

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book was weird - not good, not bad. An easy read and an interesting story, but not one I’m very satisfied with.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marnie Z

    Didn't finish... Didn't finish...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily Duchon

    2.5 Meh. I had high hopes in the beginning. Forced plot, gotcha ending. Just not for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I couldn't finish it; so much set up, but nothing happened....sad that something with an appealing plot couldn't get there.... I couldn't finish it; so much set up, but nothing happened....sad that something with an appealing plot couldn't get there....

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Such hateful, ugly characters. I couldn't wait for it to be over yet had to read to the end to find out how once more the doormat of a main character was yet again betrayed. Such hateful, ugly characters. I couldn't wait for it to be over yet had to read to the end to find out how once more the doormat of a main character was yet again betrayed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In one of my favorite movies, Henry Fool, sanitation worker Simon Grim is inspired by the movie's namesake to begin writing poetry. It turns out he's so good at it that he ends up winning the Nobel Prize. The movie's writer and director, Hal Hartley, achieves this suspension of disbelief by never showing any of Simon's poetry to the audience. Instead, we are left to imagine these earth-shattering poems that amaze the other characters in the movie. Simon's poetic genius is all the more believable In one of my favorite movies, Henry Fool, sanitation worker Simon Grim is inspired by the movie's namesake to begin writing poetry. It turns out he's so good at it that he ends up winning the Nobel Prize. The movie's writer and director, Hal Hartley, achieves this suspension of disbelief by never showing any of Simon's poetry to the audience. Instead, we are left to imagine these earth-shattering poems that amaze the other characters in the movie. Simon's poetic genius is all the more believable because we aren't given the opportunity to read his work for ourselves and dispute its genius. On the flip side, David Samuel Levinson, the author of Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, has committed one of the unspoken sins of art creation, which is to write something, and then to have that writing referred to, within that very work, by a (fictional) critic as "nothing short of ingenious and nothing less than a page-turner" (311). This fictional critic also proclaims the author of Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence to be "the greatest fiction writer of her [sic] generation" (311). Not even Norman Mailer had the guts to do this. Sure, he'd talk about how great he was *outside* of his works of art (e.g., in an interview or whatever), but never, to my knowledge, *within* one of those works. (You'll note the disparity of gender in the above quotation from the book, and this is explained by the fact that, within the world of the book, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence was written by one of the book's own characters. Perhaps Levinson believed that this one degree of remove absolves him, because he's not, technically, writing about himself. But this would work only if we were meant to believe that the version of Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence being so intensely praised by the critic weren't the very book we'd just read. And I don't see how this could possibly be the case here.) This arrogance would be slightly forgivable if Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence were, in fact, "ingenious" and evidence of a writer who is "the greatest...of [his] generation." But it is not. On the contrary, this novel serves as an OK waste of a couple of afternoons if you're looking to read something that doesn't tax your brain and as long as you don't care too much about believable characterization. This book reminded me of Girl on the Train in that it's populated by characters with strange motivations who continually, almost compulsively, interact with each other even though they should really know better. I had been expecting a rather low-key book about literate individuals inhabiting a sleepy college town. What I got was a quasi-thriller that became a quasi-thriller only in the very last part of the book. Whereas the beginning was all about grief and anger with some petty jealousy thrown in, the end was all about Chekov's gun going off (twice), with "tragic" results. I put "tragic" in scare quotes because the tragedy is a big part of what didn't work for me in this book. The events that led to someone getting shot in the end read like paint-by-numbers melodrama. Actually, it all read as pretty melodramatic in a way that I just couldn't appreciate. Why did Catherine keep talking to Harold (the man who ruined her dead husband's career) and why did she ask him to move into her guest cottage? Why did she believe she and Antonia were friends? They interact just a few times in the book and never really connect in a meaningful way. Why does everyone freak out because Antonia used an ugly story from her family's past as the basis for her novel? Haven't writers done that since the dawn of fiction? It may not make her a very nice person, but then writers aren't competing in a likeability contest; they're trying to make art. Speaking of which, this book was weirdly "down" on writers and writing. Beyond many of the characters distrusting and/or disliking writers as a whole, the overall theme of the book itself seems to be that writers are awful. Considering that it's written by a writer, this is an odd bit of self-loathing. Especially in a book by one of the greatest writers of his generation.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    Do we have sole possession of our lives and what happens in them, or are they fodder for artists? That is a question David Samuel Levinson seeks to answer in his intriguing but ultimately frustrating novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence. In Winslow, a small college town in upstate New York, Catherine Strayed continues to mourn the mysterious death of her writer husband, Wyatt. No one is sure whether his death was an accident, a suicide, or a murder, but he left their house one morning, ostens Do we have sole possession of our lives and what happens in them, or are they fodder for artists? That is a question David Samuel Levinson seeks to answer in his intriguing but ultimately frustrating novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence. In Winslow, a small college town in upstate New York, Catherine Strayed continues to mourn the mysterious death of her writer husband, Wyatt. No one is sure whether his death was an accident, a suicide, or a murder, but he left their house one morning, ostensibly to get groceries, and never returned. Catherine's questions about Wyatt's death—as well as his life, frustratingly unhappy because of the failure of his first novel after a savage review by an influential critic—drag her down and plague her days. Catherine's attempts to move her life forward following Wyatt's death are complicated by the constant presence of Henry Swallow, the literary critic who essentially ended Wyatt's career before it got started. Henry took a position as Wyatt's boss at Winslow College shortly before his death. Beyond the fact that Catherine blames Henry, the two share a history, as he was her former mentor and lover. Henry's newest protegé, Antonia Lively, has also come to town. Young Antonia (significantly Henry's junior) is the toast of the literary world with the publication of her first novel, which Henry championed. But what Henry doesn't know is that Antonia's novel is essentially a retelling of an incident she was told about, a incident with ramifications on many people in her life, but Antonia doesn't care about the damage this story may inflict. And Antonia has her sights set even closer to home with her second novel, as she plans to get to the root of the rivalry between Wyatt and Henry, and the mysterious scandals in their lives, not to mention Catherine's role in all of it. Antonia infiltrates Catherine's life, which has harmful consequences. This book had a lot of promise and I was tremendously intrigued to see how the story would unfold, and figure out what all the mysteries were. Unfortunately, the compelling parts of the plot were mired down by extremely unlikable characters, and a bizarre, unnecessary shift in narration which was supposed to provide a mysterious twist at the end, but fell flat. Catherine is so weighted down by indecision, so fraught with emotion, and you don't know what is really happening to her and what she's hallucinating. Henry vacillates between being the one willing to say the truth and someone so irritating you don't understand his appeal, and Antonia is utterly unsympathetic. I think Levinson raises some very intriguing questions about whether our lives are, in essence, public domain for artists to use as inspiration (or steal wholeheartedly, in some cases). Unfortunately, a tremendously compelling plot got lost amidst characters who continually frustrate you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anna Janelle

    As a repeat participant in undergraduate creative writing courses, like Antonia Lively, I, too, am guilty of cannibalizing the personal lives of those familiar to me for fiction fodder. As a largely unread amateur author, I've had the privilege of keeping my fictional creations far from the prying eyes friends and family members who may not have been flattered with my literary interpretation of their situations or psyches. As an up-and-coming, bestselling, award-winning new author, Antonia Livel As a repeat participant in undergraduate creative writing courses, like Antonia Lively, I, too, am guilty of cannibalizing the personal lives of those familiar to me for fiction fodder. As a largely unread amateur author, I've had the privilege of keeping my fictional creations far from the prying eyes friends and family members who may not have been flattered with my literary interpretation of their situations or psyches. As an up-and-coming, bestselling, award-winning new author, Antonia Lively has no such expectation of privacy regarding her readership. This book is about the drama that unfolds when fiction falls just a bit too close to fact for the comfort of those whose lives are on display. Told largely through the eyes of Catherine Strayed, a recently widowed bookstore employee still grieving over the loss of her novelist husband, this novel is a tightly-wound mystery set in a small college town. (Populated by students and academics employed by the university, the town bares an eery resemblance to my own home town - whose population nearly doubles when school is in session). When Antonia Lively, the quintessential artsy pixie grrl, inserts herself into Catherine's life on the premise of renting her home, trouble ensues that threatens Catherine's tenuous grip on reality. With the introduction of Antonia comes the unwanted reintroduction of Henry Swallows, former professor, ex-lover, and literary critic who holds the responsibility for extinguishing Catherine's husband's once promising career. Unfortunately, that is merely the beginning of the trouble that Antonia's existence threatens to unleash. I read this over a matter of several days while road-tripping through California. It was the perfect summer read - as most of the action occurs during the dog days of a sweltering summer. All of the characters were realistically portrayed - with rough, disagreeable, quirks that allowed the reader the opportunity to question almost all of the characters' motivation at some point or another. (Personally, I questioned Henry at all points in the story; he was a horrid, miserable, self-absorbed prick with no redeeming qualities *shudder*). I appreciated the twist that was revealed in the penultimate pages of the book. This twist could easily warrant the book another re-read - as readers may want another go at the book with the knowledge of the identity of the narrator in mind. I'd like to extend both my sincere thanks to Netgalley and Algonquin Books for the opportunity to read this book - however delayed my reading may have been. My apologies for the turn-around time in posting this review. The experience of reading this novel makes me regret my hesitation in getting around to this read - which was the best of both the literary fiction and mystery worlds.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. This is probably a five-star rating for writing, and a 3.5 star for story. The writing is exquisite. I could go on and on about it, but I don't need to. Levinson is a very talented writer. We're introduced to Catherine at the beginning of the book, who is still mourning the death of her husband a year and a half ago. She's in that agonizing place where things are "back to normal" but still misses h I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. This is probably a five-star rating for writing, and a 3.5 star for story. The writing is exquisite. I could go on and on about it, but I don't need to. Levinson is a very talented writer. We're introduced to Catherine at the beginning of the book, who is still mourning the death of her husband a year and a half ago. She's in that agonizing place where things are "back to normal" but still misses him in the oddest of ways. Her grief is palpable and I was drawn into the story instantly. But the story itself...It took me a while to figure out where it was losing me. Without giving anything away, there are three main characters, Catherine, her ex-bf/lover Henry, and Henry's new gf/lover Antonia. Henry is a famous book reviewer, Antonia has written a short story that has received amazing reviews and her new book is highly anticipated, and Catherine studied writing, plus her husband was a writer. Henry had previously reviewed Catherine's husband's (Wyatt) debut book and gave it such a scathing review that he really never got over it. As a result, Catherine has nothing to say to Henry. Anyway, the main plot of the book is how despite such a complicated relationship, Catherine, Henry and Antonia's lives are all intertwined. It would have been easy just to make Catherine and Antonia jealous of one another, but they actually kind of get along, and I liked that the author didn't take the easy way out. I say that to say this isn't just some love-triangle book, it's a better story than that. But here's the problem. Each of the three of them also have this very complicated backstory, and the backstories are not necessarily related to the other characters. So, in a nutshell, I just felt like there was too much going on. Levinson handles the telling of it well, but it was at the end of the day too much, and I don't feel that some of the backstories contributed to the plot. It just made it more burdensome to read. The most interesting backstory IMO was Antonia's, but her backstory seemed like it should have been a book in its own right, and not a part of this. There were several times when reading this book that I had to put it down, not because I wasn't captivated by the story - because I was - but because I was just overwhelmed Still, I am definitely a new fan of Levinson. His talent for telling a story is undeniable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebeca Schiller

    David Samuel Levinson’s debut novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, serves as a warning to aspiring novelists that will force them to question if the literary life is for them—especially after they meet Antonia Lively and Henry Swallow. The story opens with Catherine Strayed, widow of the late, novelist Wyatt Strayed. Catherine spends her days wondering whether Wyatt’s death was accidental, suicide, or even foul play. Prior to Wyatt’s passing, Catherine’s world was turned upside down when her David Samuel Levinson’s debut novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, serves as a warning to aspiring novelists that will force them to question if the literary life is for them—especially after they meet Antonia Lively and Henry Swallow. The story opens with Catherine Strayed, widow of the late, novelist Wyatt Strayed. Catherine spends her days wondering whether Wyatt’s death was accidental, suicide, or even foul play. Prior to Wyatt’s passing, Catherine’s world was turned upside down when her former mentor and lover Henry Swallow—a powerful literary critic who destroyed Wyatt’s writing career—turns up at Winslow, the small town in upstate New York, to teach at the university. One night, Henry shows up at Catherine’s house wanting to speak with Wyatt, leaving Catherine to fret over the long conversation between the two men. Soon after their discussion, Wyatt begins to work on another novel. Now more than a year later after Wyatt’s death, Catherine meets Antonia Lively, Henry’s protégé and the publishing world’s new literary “It Girl.” Antonia is looking for a summer rental and tells Catherine that Henry informed her that her house is available for the season. Upset by Henry’s assumption, Catherine confronts him at the university, and soon she is cajoled to rent him Wyatt’s writing cottage. With Henry renting the cottage and Antonia visiting, Catherine finds herself at odds about their relationship—she becomes fond of the young novelist, but distrusts Henry’s motives. The summer turns murkier and dangerous when a number of malevolent incidents occur involving Antonia, her father, and mentally deranged uncle. For readers who follow literary scandals, Levinson inserts one à la James Frey, but in this case it deals with Henry’s purist definition of fiction versus Antonia’s perception of truth, using the novel as a vehicle to expose it. With those two opposing views, the story enters into dangerous territory where reputations can be forever damaged and destroyed. Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence is spellbinding with an important takeaway: beware of friendly, young novelists.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sandie

    College towns in the summer are different. Without the students there, the town sleeps and stirs lazily. The energy level drops dramatically as everyone waits for the coolness of fall and the students' return. Catherine Strayed is living in such a town. She works in a bookstore and works through the grief of losing her husband, Wyatt, a talented novelist. Wyatt's novel was groundbreaking, but killed upon birth by an influential critic, Henry Swallow. With the death of his novel's success came t College towns in the summer are different. Without the students there, the town sleeps and stirs lazily. The energy level drops dramatically as everyone waits for the coolness of fall and the students' return. Catherine Strayed is living in such a town. She works in a bookstore and works through the grief of losing her husband, Wyatt, a talented novelist. Wyatt's novel was groundbreaking, but killed upon birth by an influential critic, Henry Swallow. With the death of his novel's success came the death of Wyatt's career, and Catherine watched him struggle and finally give up. The final blow was Henry's move to the college where Wyatt worked and the realization that he had to see him and work with him each day. Everything changes when Antonia Lively blows into town. She is the latest celebrity novelist, her debut hailed by everyone. It doesn't hurt that she's Henry's latest protégé, and he can use his influence to move her career forward. Her novel explores her own family's tragic history, and she sees nothing wrong with using such personal material. Isn't that what novelists do? The summer progresses with Catherine being drawn further into Henry and Antonia's lives. There are so many motives and old stories intertwined that it is unclear who loves who and who are mortal enemies. What neither Henry or Catherine know is that Antonia has determined what her next novel will explore and that is the complicated relationship that Wyatt, Catherine and Henry all had with each other. Will this new excavation of pain prove fatal to Antonia? David Samuel Levinson has written a complicated, plot-twisting novel that is sure to keep the reader turning pages. The reader is as enthralled with the twist and turns of these individual's relationships as Antonia is, and it is impossible to turn away from the tragedy it is clear is coming. This book is recommended for readers interested in authors' lives and those who love books about relationships.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Hemesath

    I've been trying to get in to indie-ish books lately and really enjoyed Wool Omnibus and Veil. I asked Aaron Overfield to recommend another book he thought I might like and he said he was in the middle of reading Antonia Lively. I finished this in a day and a half (which I guess isn't saying too much because it's only a little over 300 pages, but that's still a lot). David Samuel Levinson has quite a career ahead of him and I'm glad he was recommended. I'm going to shelf his other books. One of m I've been trying to get in to indie-ish books lately and really enjoyed Wool Omnibus and Veil. I asked Aaron Overfield to recommend another book he thought I might like and he said he was in the middle of reading Antonia Lively. I finished this in a day and a half (which I guess isn't saying too much because it's only a little over 300 pages, but that's still a lot). David Samuel Levinson has quite a career ahead of him and I'm glad he was recommended. I'm going to shelf his other books. One of my favorite things are disparate threads in a story that are connected at root and the story eventually weaves its way to bringing them together somehow. David Levinson did this wonderfully in Antonia Lively and any book that involves the world of writing and books in its story is going to win me over. My only gripes would be that the POV became confusing at times and the dialog wasn't as full of life as I would have liked. The way it read, I could see how the author could picture the conversations unfolding in his head while he was writing, but his mental image of the characters didn't make it to the page, so dialog was left feeling a bit detached and flat. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the plot organization. I have a new author to keep an eye on.

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