A Change in Altitude is the latest by Anita Shreve. I’ve been an Anita Shreve fan for a while with my favorite remaining The Pilot’s Wife. In A Change in Altitude, Shreve takes us on a journey through a couple’s relationship and a climb up Mount Kenya which she in fact did herself and this in turn ended up giving us a much more vivid view in our minds of what this must have been like for them.
The story is about Margaret and Patrick, a young couple who decide to move to Kenya for a year for Patrick to further his career in medicine. They’ve only been married a few months and things are difficult for Margaret as she has no job and things are much different for her in Kenya compared to home. Eventually she takes up photography again and this takes her on a journey through Kenya in which she is able to see both the good and the devastating living conditions of some.
They meet another couple, Arthur and Diana, who invite them to climb Mount Kenya with them. Margaret, despite serious misgivings finally gives in to the pressure Patrick is exerting on her to agree to go. Margaret doesn’t do too well on the climb up as she isn’t in the best shape for this kind of thing. However it isn’t this that throws the whole trip into chaos – it is the unimaginable tragedy that occurs – a tragedy that not only splits people apart but leaves a young marriage in turmoil.
Margaret and Patrick return home and try to pick up the pieces of their lives but they are left with serious questions about each other and are having trouble working their way back to the happily married couple they first were. Patrick buries himself in his work and Margaret in her photography and a new friendship which is making her question her marriage and what it means to her.
Shreve definitely paints a vivid description of Africa and the climb up Mount Kenya and that I enjoyed but what was missing in this novel for me was the connection I like to feel to at least some of the characters. I had trouble with Margaret’s and Patrick’s relationship; for a newly married couple it just didn’t seem right. Margaret didn’t stand up for herself as much as I would have wished and I found Patrick mean and arrogant at times in his treatment of her.
Ultimately this novel is about relationships; something that Shreve writes well. It shows how one small moment in which one loses trust in their partner can throw a whole relationship upside down and how they can try to work their way back if they’re determined enough. While this isn’t one of my favorites of Anita Shreve’s, it was still a good read for me. You can buy A Change in Altitude here in the US and here in Canada.
—to Hachette Book Group for my review copy of A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve