Critically acclaimed author Anita Shreve enthralls readers once again with this tale of one-sided love and obsession.

Nicholas Van Tassel is a professor at Thrupp College in New Hampshire in the early years of the 20th century. After escaping the dining room of a hotel during a fire, he sees a lovely young woman whom he finds very attractive.

Etna Bliss, the beautiful young lady, is the niece of a colleague at the college, and Van Tassel begins his courtship in earnest. It is clear from the onset of this courtship that Etna is very reserved in her affection for Nicholas. Her acceptance of his proposal results in much greater happiness for him than for her.

As the years pass and two children are born to the Van Tassels, Nicholas becomes a candidate for Dean of Thrupp College, and the events that follow end up destroying the peaceful truce at the Van Tassel home.

This brilliantly written tale of obsession and unrequited love is proof that the foundation of love can crumble if one lover chooses unethical behavior in hopes of saving the fragile bonds. Interestingly, the character of Nicholas seems very exposed, while Etna seems to remain elusive throughout the novel.

Well known for her vivid and thought-provoking novels, this latest from Shreve is quite possibly one of her best. (Apr., 304 pp., $25.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick