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 by Anita Shreve X
All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 320 pages
    Jan 2004, 352 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Did Etna Bliss hesitate just the one second before accepting my hat and gloves? Yes, I am sure she did. I remember distinctly the sensation of holding out my things and for a moment having no taker. What did she see in me that made her pause? The vast hunger that had shaken me to the bone? And would she have recognized this hunger for having seen it before on the faces of other men, or was she merely prescient, already intuitive about human want and greed?

(And why, why, I have often asked myself, was it that woman and not another? Why the curve of that particular cheek and not another? Why the gold of those eyes and not the blue of others? I have in my lifetime seen a hundred, no a thousand, beautiful women — lifting skirts to step over piles of snow, fanning long necks in restaurants, undressing in the dim electric lights of rented rooms — but none has ever had upon me the effect that Etna Bliss had: a sensation quite beyond that which can be explained by science.)

She took my coat then and hung it on a hat rack in the corner. She turned slightly toward me.

"Etna, I wonder if you would . . ." William Bliss began, not unkindly but perhaps suggesting the nature of Etna’s place within the household. There was no further need to elaborate, for already she had turned toward the kitchen to tell the cook that tea was needed.

What relief it was for me to see her retreating form! The respite allowed me some moments to collect my wits and speak to Bliss in the manner to which we were accustomed, the manner of men who do not know each other well but are regarded as colleagues and thus have immediately a common vocabulary that must be respected before any dislike or love can form.

I did not often encounter William Bliss at school, since he was married and therefore did not reside in college rooms; nor did we ever have occasion to work together, coming as we did from separate disciplines. Also, Bliss was older than I by a good twenty years, and thus I regarded him as from a different generation. He directed me to the front parlor.

I cannot exaggerate the feeling of claustrophobia that room produced, the claustrophobia of months spent indoors, of oxygen seemingly sucked from the air by the plethora of ornate pieces and dozens of objets, each demanding the eye’s attention, so that one felt not only breathless and oppressed, but also as though a migraine were imminent. It was a room that with its rosewood spool turnings and carved oak trefoils, its gilded mirrors and marble-topped tables, its serpentine tendrils of overgrown plants and cast-iron lanterns, its stenciled stripes and floral motifs, its flocked wallpaper and glass curtains, its oriental rugs and Chinese vases and fringed tablecloths and its iron clock — not to mention the dozens of daguerreotypes in silver and wood and marquetry frames that seemed to cover every available surface — leached the vitality from the body. (A man’s body, at least, for one deduced immediately that the room reflected a woman’s taste; even Moxon’s rooms, at their very worst, might have been considered spare by comparison.) Because of all the plants in the windows, only the dimmest light entered the room, and how Bliss had been able to read a newspaper there, I do not know, though perhaps he had been reading in his study. It was evidence at the very least that William Bliss must have loved his wife very much to put up with so much excess.

"Van Tassel, do sit down."

"Thank you."

"There might be good. Oh, let me move that for you."

"No, I can do it."

"You know, I cannot thank you enough. My wife says you were a hero."

"Nonsense, it was no more than any man would have done."

"You are too modest. Is the college abuzz?"

"I daresay. I have canceled my classes."

"Have you indeed? What a splendid idea."

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Story of Arthur Truluv
    by Elizabeth Berg

    An emotionally powerful novel from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist


Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.