Book Review: Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence – David Samuel Levinson

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence coverTitle: Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence
Author: David Samuel Levinson
ISBN: 9781565129184
Pages: 320
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


A year after her husband’s death, Catherine Strayed still wonders if it was a suicide, an accident, or even possibly a murder. Is it really coincidence that the critic who singlehandedly torpedoed her husband’s writing career, named Henry Swallow, turned up in their small college town just before her husband died? Now, Henry is still in town, and Catherine does her best to avoid him. She meets Antonia Lively, Henry’s new protege and an accomplished new writer, and as she gets to know Antonia, Catherine begins to wonder where the lines between fiction and fact actually lie.


Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence is a novel written, first and foremost, for lovers of the written word. Let’s take the main character, Catherine. She’s the widow of a celebrated writer, looking to make ends meet when her job at a local (independent!) bookstore doesn’t seem to be paying all the bills. It takes place in a college town, in a setting with all the thrills and romance of academia. And the novel features something of a literary upstart in Antonia Lively, whose early successes in writing are reminiscent of many other young female writers. Above all, though, the novel is a meditation on fact versus fiction, on where our ideas come from and what we choose to write about. So, to make a long story short, if you love books, this is a novel that was written for you.

This ode to lovers of literature is cloaked in the plot of a literary mystery. Just what happened to Catherine’s husband in Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence? This mystery permeates the plot of the whole book; it’s present in every action of the characters, in every word they say, and is more than enough to keep the reader engaged until the very last page.

Readers will also enjoy getting to know Catherine Strayed in Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence. She’s determined and resourceful, but she doesn’t quite know whom to trust. Indeed, this is a theme that runs through the novel. While readers might like Catherine, Henry, and Antonia, there is a sense that there is more story than is being told. Levinson does an excellent job keeping his characters mysterious and writing fully realized, realistic characters whom, as hard as they try, simply cannot be perfect.

If you’re a lover of the written word and enjoy wonderful atmosphere and well-drawn characters, then you should pick up Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence immediately. Levinson perfectly captures the academic, small college town life, and readers will find themselves fully absorbed by this literary mystery.

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