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A Change in Altitude

Book: A Change in Altitude

Author: Anita Shreve

Short Summary:
Margaret and Patrick are a newly married couple who leave everything they know behind to move to Kenya due to Patrick’s work and research in equitorial medicine. While in Kenya, they are invited by a British couple to do a climb of Mount Kenya. Patrick excitedly accepts, and Margaret, although never having climbed before, decides she will give it a shot. Events atop the mountain lead to tragedy and starts to pull Margaret and Patrick apart. After the climb, Margaret attemtps to work on her marriage, start a new job, and figure out who she really is.

My Thoughts:
Unfortunately, this book did nothing for me. First, I cared very little for the characters. My apathy towards Margaret was due to her boring nature and lack of personality. She had no spark and no passion. She seemed to just go along throughout the entire story. The progress she made within herself felt contrived.  She was not a protaganist I found myself rooting for. And Patrick was just awful. I didn’t get to know him very well, but what I did know I cared very little about.  It was difficult to root for them as individuals or as a couple.

The story went nowhere. I thought there was some potential at the beginning while they were doing the climb. In the wake of the tragedy it seemed as if things were going to get interesting, but I was wrong. It just got boring. There seemed to be very little purpose for events that happened after the climb and characters who were introduced early in the story were quickly written out. The new characters introduced were less interesting and led the story to drag.

I was very unfulfilled by this book, but one thing I did enjoy was the setting. It was interesting to hear about Kenya and other parts of Africa, which I know very little about. It did not make the book worth reading though.

My advice is to take a pass on this one. I read Testimony by Shreve and really liked it, so I was disapointed that this one was such a let down. Since I did like Testimony, I would be willing to give her stuff another try. Has anyone read this book and have a different opinion? If so, I’d love to hear it!

My Rating: 2/5 stars


7 Responses

  1. I actually liked this book but for a different reason. Her first several novels were so good, she was my favorite author. Then I noticed the quality decline and when I read Light on Snow I discovered she recently battled cancer. Maybe her passion changed (which is understandable) or something… her books haven’t been the same.

    This book: Her writing and the detail was solid, the plot/storyline/pace was slow… just like Africa. Not one of my favorites either. You should try Resistance (it’s short, so good).

  2. I really enjoyed A Change in Altitude, but it was the first Anita Shreve book I read. I found her writing to be absolutely lovely. I did identify with Margaret as a newlywed who adores travel. Also, Margaret would be about the same age as my mother, and I imagined my parents in their situation, as well as my husband and me. I found the book to be a beautiful character study of a marriage. I was also intrigued with how personal the story was to the author. I hope you find a read you enjoy more soon!

  3. Well I didn’t like Testimony very much, so I suspect I wouldn’t like this one at all! I love the line, “My apathy towards Margaret was due to her boring nature and lack of personality.” An all-time great review line! :–)

  4. I have Testimony on my TBR and really enjoyed The Pilot’s Wife. This sounds like one I can skip though…thanks for your honest review.

  5. I haven’t read any of her books but I find that reviews for her (in general) are all over the place. I guess that’s why I’ve held off on reading her work. I must have at least three of her books on my bookshelf.

  6. I agree with you 100% about this book and said so in my review on my book blog. However, please give Shreve another chance. She has written some wonderful books. “Fortune’s Rocks” is good, so are “Eden Close” and “Light on Snow”. I’d maybe stay away from “The Weight of Water” and “Body Surfing”. I think “Testimony” is one of the few books of hers I haven’t read.

  7. I also have to agree with you totally about this book. I was very let down. Ms. Shreve has always been one of my favorite authors, and the only two books I haven’t read are “Testimony” and “Light on Snow”.
    One of my favorites was “Weight of Water”, and I feel as though she “borrowed” her characters and their personal struggles from this book to use in “Change of Altitude.” After reading some of the other reviews, it occured to me that prehaps the author is having some personal trauma of her own, and I was too quick to criticize. She is a great writer, and I, too, loved learning about Africa. I await her next book.

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