Saturday, October 24, 2009

Barney's Online Book Club Discussion -- October 2009

Welcome to the third discussion post of Barney's Online Book Club! This month we are discussing Testimony by Anita Shreve. Below are questions to start the discussion, feel free to raise your own questions in the comments section. Please note that the questions and the comments sections may include spoilers! Read at your own risk.

Let the discussion begin!


Discussion Questions:

1. Many blog reviewers have mentioned that telling the story through multiple characters made the story difficult to follow. Do you agree?

2. Did you sympathize with any of the characters? Why or why not?

3. Who do you feel is to blame for Silas's death?

4. How do you feel about Rob's assessment at the end of the novel? Do you think he (and the other characters) will lead a better life because they survived the scandal?

5. What was your over impression of Testimony?

7 comments:

Mishel said...

1. Many blog reviewers have mentioned that telling the story through multiple characters made the story difficult to follow. Do you agree?

I didn't have a problem at all. I liked and looked forward to the change in perspective because I knew I would have another character's point of view on the same situation.


2. Did you sympathize with any of the characters? Why or why not?

I did. I sympathized with Silas. Because by the end of the book you realize why he made that stupid choice to have sex with that girl. Yes it was still his choice but he was upset and for a very understandable reason.

I also sympthathized with Anna and Michael and even Silas's dad. I pretty much sympathized with them all lol. I'm a big softy.

I didn't really symphatize with the victim, I can't remember what she called herself. While she didn't ask for it I feel that claiming rape was more than wrong on her part. She clearly wasn't rape but that doesn't excuse the boys at all for their actions.


3. Who do you feel is to blame for Silas's death?

While I understand the role Michael and Anna played in Silas's emotional state I don't really blame them. After he found out about his mother's affair, Silas alienated himself from everyone including his girlfriend. He gave up on everything so I think the ultimate blame goes to him sadly.

4. How do you feel about Rob's assessment at the end of the novel? Do you think he (and the other characters) will lead a better life because they survived the scandal?

I really enjoyed Rob's assessment. I think it closed up the book very well. I think he summed up things nicely. Everyone that was affected by the scandal will be scarred for life someway. It's amazing how the scandal actually messed with so many people's lives.

5. What was your over impression of Testimony?

I really liked it. I enjoy Anita Shreve's writing and I found myself emotionally invovled with most of the characters.


I look forward to every one else's reactions.

Jess said...

Hi Everyone!

Mishel -- I agree with your impressions of the multiple characters telling the story. I found it unique and interesting to learn everyone's part in the scandal and the way the author let it unfold before the reader's eyes made for an intense read.

I also thought that the book was extremely well written, all the characters had unique voices and the use of first, second, and third person was a fantastic way to show each person's role in the story.

What was everyone's impressions of the sections that involved the boy's parents? Were there any reactions that surprised you? Do you think the parent's should blame themselves for the boys' behavior?

Deb said...

1. No, I really didn’t find hearing the story through multiple characters difficult. I actually enjoyed hearing it this way and thought it was interesting to hear different perspectives from different people.

2. I definitely sympathized with a few characters. Silas was probably the character I had the most sympathy for b/c in finding out about his mother’s affair, his anger drove him to do things that were so out of character for him and ultimately led to his death. I also sympathized for Anna b/c I can’t imagine that amount of guilt she felt over what happened and just feeling that she is to blame.

3. I totally agree with Mishel on this one. Although Anna and Mike’s affair played a role in what happened, I don’t blame them for Silas’ death. Silas was so angry about the affair and what he thought was the end of his family that he turned to alcohol to deal with it. I think his drinking and anger then led him to do what happened with the girl. On top of how he was already feeling, he then had to deal with the guilt of cheating on Noelle. So unfortunately, I think Silas was responsible for his own death. What is hard for me to understand is why he chose to deal with it the way he did instead of turning to his girlfriend. The author really painted this picture of how close Silas and Noelle were and how much he loved her. So I thought totally turning his back on Noelle (before the scandal) was a bit out of character.

4. I thought Rob’s assessment at the end of the novel tied up the loose ends nicely. You don’t hear from Rob (except from when his mom is talking to him) throughout the book, so to have it end this way, I thought was great. In hearing that Rob was looking into volunteer work or ways to help others, I think he may try and lead a better life b/c of what happened. However, I do not think J.Dot or Sienna will lead a better life b/c of this. In fact, it sounded like they were both looking for ways to profit from what happened. I think J.Dot totally lives in denial and will continue to lie in order to get out of situations. Sienna actually believes that she’s the true victim and did nothing to bring this on to herself. The boys are definitely at fault b/c of Sienna’s age, but it only became rape for Sienna when she thought she was in trouble with the school or her parents.

5. My overall impression of Testimony was that it was very well written. I thought it was great the way the author pieced together the story through the eyes of different people. Such a heartbreaking end though! I knew pretty much in the beginning it was going to be Silas who died, but it was still all so sad! The only thing I wish the author would have done was have Noelle talk one last time after she received the letter from Silas. I would have liked to hear what she was thinking/feeling after reading those letters.

6. I thought the sections with the boy’s parents were interesting b/c they all seemed to be thinking and dealing with this in different ways. But, I wasn’t really surprised by any of their reactions, I thought they were all understandable. I guess what surprised me most about the book was the affair between Anna and Mike! I totally did not see that one coming! But in finding out about that, it made Silas’ behavior a little more understandable.

Jess said...

2. I definitely understand sympathizing with Silas, but what really got me was all the students who had nothing to do with the scandal and how their academic careers were hindered by their association with Avery. To me, that was the saddest aspect -- how one awful decision created this ripple that affected so many.

Deb -- I agree with your thoughts on Silas and Noelle's relationship. If they were so in love, why didn't Silas talk to Noelle about the affair instead of turning to alcohol?

To all -- Is there a character that you couldn't understand or sympathize with?

Shon said...

1. Many blog reviewers have mentioned that telling the story through multiple characters made the story difficult to follow. Do you agree?

Although I enjoyed reading each character's perspective, at times I did find it hard to follow the time line.

2. Did you sympathize with any of the characters? Why or why not?

I think Silas, Noelle and Rob I had the most sympathy for. Also, Rob's mother. Rasheed's chapter left me thinking about the students who were not involved at all, but still felt the aftermath of the incident.

3. Who do you feel is to blame for Silas's death?

A result of choices and consequences (not all his) took him down the path that eventually led to his death.

4. How do you feel about Rob's assessment at the end of the novel? Do you think he (and the other characters) will lead a better life because they survived the scandal?

Rob, I definitely think will. He has spent time reflecting on this and is determined to change his life to make some good come from this. His summation of that night was a good way to end the book. His words were very powerful and shed light on what happened.

5. What was your over impression of Testimony?

I really enjoyed it, more than I thought I would. It left me thinking about how quickly one's life can spin out of control and our choices and the consequences of those choices can lead us in a new direction.

Mary said...

Hi Jess and everyone : ) I read Testimony over a year ago so I can't answer all the questions.

What I remember is that I really liked/appreciated the story being told from different perspectives. It really gave voice to the main characters.

I do remember sympathizing with Silas. The whole tale is pretty sad but my heart went out to Silas.

My overall impression of the book is that I thought it was one of Shreve's best. To say I enjoyed it would be incorrect. Coming from the perspective of a parent, it was a tough read. That said, it kept me riveted til the end.

Jess said...

Thanks everyone for participating and adding your fantastic comments! I will email you soon about suggestions for next month's book. Have a great week!