Friday, March 30, 2018

Novelist Anita Shreve Has Died at 71

It was with a sharp pain and a gasp that I read the news this morning that Anita Shreve, author of 19 novels, died yesterday at her home in New Hampshire. Sometimes I wish I had known of an author's severe illness before the final blow strikes. Perhaps I could have sent a card or a letter to say what her books meant to me over the decades.

Evidently lots of people in the publishing world knew, because a year ago she had to cancel numerous speaking engagements due to her chemotherapy.

There's something about an artist dying at 71--still in her writing prime, as evidenced by her last novel, The Stars Are Fire, which was published in 2017.  Something truncated--unnatural. Perhaps I feel that the ability to write a novel should go first, then sometime later, the writer herself, as does often happen. I guess it's a shock, a sadness either way.

She grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts,  a town 12 miles from the town where I was raised. After college she taught high-school English in a suburban Boston town, and one year she realized with force that she must write fiction, and she left her position in April. Breaking a teaching contract mid-year was unheard of during my teaching days in Massachusetts. The drive to write was that powerful. 


  1. That is very sad, Judith. I have only read one book by her, but I liked it a lot.

    1. Tracy,
      I have not read all of her books--so many! But I thought The Stars are Fire (her latest) was extremely well done. I also loved Resistance, her second novel, which is set in France during World War II. And many others, too numerous to name.

  2. I hadn't heard the news, at least she got longer than Helen Dunmore did. They must have been furious with her for breaking her contract, if it's as it is here they wouldn't have considered taking her back either!

    1. Oh, believe me, breaking a teaching contract mid-year has always been taboo, and breaking it in April, unheard of! Deathbed or giving birth were the only excuses.
      Talk about burning bridges!
      But I imagine that if Shreve went to that extreme, she knew that nothing would make her go back to teaching.
      I don't think that Shreve would have been thankful that she got a little more time than Dunmore, really. I mourn both of them.