Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence

David Samuel Levinson, Author
David Samuel Levinson. Algonquin, $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-56512-918-4
Reviewed on: 04/08/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
The worlds of academia and literary criticism prove treacherous in Levinson’s debut novel (after the short story collection Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will). After 18 months, Catherine Strayed still mourns her husband, Wyatt, a professor of creative writing whose first novel was recently published and whose death might have been a suicide caused by a devastating review from critic Henry Swallow. Unknown to Wyatt, Catherine, as a college student, had been a lover of the sexually predatory Henry. Meanwhile, to her discomfort, Henry has been hired by her late husband’s university, and his talented creative writing protégée, Antonia Lively, who has a novel on the way, insinuates herself into Catherine’s life. It turns out that the nakedly ambitious Antonia strip-mines the lives of those close to her for fiction. But will she be prepared to face the consequences of her actions? Although the story has the trappings of a psychological thriller, Levinson is more interested in charting the heedless ambition and corrosive jealousy of less-than-sympathetic characters, whose motivations are exposed through a series of clunky plot devices. Despite raising intriguing questions about a writer’s responsibility, this novel too often strains credulity to truly illuminate the subject. (June)