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All He Ever Wanted
by Anita Shreve

Category: Fiction / General
304 pages; ISBN: 0316782262

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


Professor Nicholas Van Tassel knows he is a stuffy and pedantic professor of Literature and Rhetoric, who is more comfortable at Thrupp University instead of at Cambridge thirty-five miles away. He surprises himself when he acts the hero when the restaurant he is dining in bursts into flames. He escapes and helps other people until he sees Etna Bliss, with a small child in her arms, and falls instantly in love.

He pursues her with a ferocity that won’t take no for an answer even though he sees that he is the one enamored, not her. When she finally accepts his proposal she makes it clear she doesn’t love him but he doesn’t care because he needs her. They have two children over the years and Professor Van Tassel is reasonably content until he finds out that his wife used her inheritance to buy a place he knew nothing about. He is so furious that he threatens divorce and is shocked when she quickly agrees to the idea. He does all in his power to convince her that she is making a mistake, using some very underhanded methods to get his point across.

ALL HE EVER WANTED was her love but he had to make do with her tepid affections and at the first sign of trouble, their marriage built on quicksand quickly sinks. The protagonist is telling his tale in the first person narrative on a train over thirty years since he married Etna and he is analyzing the marriage, as if it was a project. One can’t help feel sorry for him, a basically good person who had to settle for less than he wanted.

Harriet Klausner


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