Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 111 x 181mm | 186g
  • Sphere Books
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747400334
  • 9780747400332

Review Text

Shreve's Massachusetts river town of Bethany (1955-65 - and a rogue tendril reaching back to a 1905 Sicilian arrival) is a landscape of contained public postures and housed passion. In this novel of one woman's evolving knowledge of love and evil, Shreve has created an Oatesian fictional world where characters take on a magical solidity and consequence against the firestorms of a dark causality. Dubbed the "Queen of Hearts" by a Boston reviewer, folk-singer Cesca Woodbine, like her Sicilian grandmother who arrived in Bethany in 1905 (pregnant by a mythic "count"), has "the sight." Cesca simply "sees" the dark secrets of her respectable neighbors - yet, raped at age 14, Cesca will not witness her own heart's tempests until - "tornado-struck by rage" - she kills handsome Colin, her fiance, as he dallies with another girl. Now "anything seemed possible." Never suspected of the murder by the town, Cesca gives birth to Colin's son Tobias, and continuing her career in voice, finds her metier in the town's hospital during a hurricane, when she writes her first song about the hurts that people inflict on one another: "Ground warfare was what she was after, armed with true stories against the ordinary enemies of the human heart." While Cesca sings of Bethany's most vicious secrets, her mother returns from a gentle madness; her father withers within a love; a priest remembers one "loved beyond life'; young brother Hall joins a circus - and slithering about the village is the town darling, Will Weaver, a homocidal crazy (once very fond of snakes) who will murder, and in whose heart Cesca will be locked - one of two "charmed children of Bethany" - in a dance of death. Shreve has left the muddled messaging and over-ornate complexities of her earlier novels. Here, there's a firm and fascinating tale (with only a trace of loudly symbolic grotesqueries) that penetrates not only the tension in circumscribed lives but also the cracked psyche of a killer, and the healing soul of the gentlest of murderers. (Kirkus Reviews)
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