Excerpt from All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

All He Ever Wanted

By Anita Shreve

All He Ever Wanted
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2003,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2004,
    352 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"Many persons were in need of assistance," I said, adopting an uncharacteristically casual pose by sitting on the edge of my desk. I removed a piece of lint from my trousers.

"And what were the injuries, sir?"

This from Edward Ferald, a slack-jawed boy with narrow eyes, who was always currying favor, but behind my back, I knew, referred to me, as did some of the other students, as "Scrofulous," which is taken, of course, from the Latin, sus scrofa, for pig. Well, not pig exactly, but boar. Wild boar, to be precise. Why, I do not know, since I don’t think I resembled a boar, but no matter. Almost all the faculty had unflattering nicknames then: John Runciel was "Rancid"; Benjamin Little, as I recall, was "Little Man"; Jonathan Whitley was "Witless." (Surely "Rancid" is worse than "Scrofulous"?) Ferald’s pleasure came not from learning but from provoking an unattractive earnestness in his tutors that he blandly pretended not to understand. Thus a tutorial with Ferald could prove to be a wretched exercise. On the few occasions I had tried to resort to cunning to outwit him, I had failed dismally, verbal agility not being my strong suit.

"Many cuts and bruises and broken bones," I said. "And smoke inhalation. Twenty perished."

"And yourself, sir?" Ferald asked unctuously. "I hope you yourself were not harmed."

"No damage to myself, I am happy to report."

"Happy indeed," said Ferald, blinking lazily.

"Twenty burned to death, sir?" asked Nathan Foote, a fair-haired young man who wore on his face an expression of genuine horror, though this cannot have been news. The college had been abuzz with the statistic since the night before.

"One hopes . . ." I began. But in that instant, time slowed and came altogether to a stop, and I saw, through the window, a woman with a child, a vision so vivid and visceral that I feared I was hallucinating. I put my hand to my forehead, which was clammy despite the frigid air of the classroom.

"Sir?" asked Foote, alarmed not only by my truncated sentence, but by my appearance.

I forced my eyes to focus on his face.

"One hopes the unfortunate victims perished as a result of smoke inhalation and not of the flames themselves," I said, struggling to regain my composure.

There was a long moment of silence in the classroom.

"I have suddenly realized," I said quickly, "that it is inappropriate to be having class on a day when we should, in fact, be honoring those wretched persons who perished — and, indeed, for whom our college flag is this morning at half-mast. And so I have determined that we shall have no more lessons now. You are dismissed to your rooms and to the chapel for contemplation upon the brevity of life, the capricious hand of fate, and the necessity to remain continually in a state of grace."

Some of the more alert students, Ferald for one, were on their feet at once, sensing the unexpected opportunity for an hour of leisure, while the others sat stunned for a moment before gathering notebooks and texts. How soon the classroom emptied I do not know, for by then I was briskly on my way to Wheelock Street.

(I did sometimes wonder if my Latin nickname wasn’t, after all, a mistranslation, or an attempt at homonymic wit. Had the student who had invented the name meant bore? Wild bore?)

The ice ruin of the hotel was now beginning to melt in the bright sun of mid-morning, and as I passed that godforsaken structure, the continuous sound of dripping from a thousand icicles, a rain that glistened and sparkled as it fell, tinkled like fine crystals. I saw two young boys, clearly truant from the local grammar school, poking at the rubble, possibly for valuables that had survived the fire. I barked at them to leave the area at once, as any fool could see that the entire edifice was in danger of toppling (and would, in fact, collapse three weeks later during a particularly wet and heavy snowfall).

From All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Little, Brown & Company.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.