A Change in Altitude

Shreve, Anita. A Change in Altitude. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2009.

Reason read: Shreve’s birth month is in October. Read in her honor.

I love Shreve’s work. I love how at the end of every book she always leaves the reader slightly unsettled, as if there is more to the story. She refuses to wrap up the ending in a solid “Hollywood-happy” resolution.
Margaret and Patrick are newlyweds; only married for five months and yet I personally found their relationship flat and dispassionate. He, a doctor, travels around Kenya in exchange for research data on equatorial diseases. She, an out of work photographer, hopes to freelance around Nairobi and capture landscapes unfamiliar to her American eye. Together Patrick and Margaret join two other couples in an effort to climb Mount Kenya. Almost immediately, there is an imbalance to their chemistry. Margaret’s feminist sensibilities were threatened when she couldn’t earn her keep with a job and now she can’t keep up with the mountaineering climb. The others continuously leave her behind. Her companions have a much easier go at it. She is further insulted when the men in the group display subtle attitudes of sexism towards her. Arthur repeatedly claims he will take care of her while Wilfred casually refers to the women in the group as “girls.” Her climbing partners are snobbish; questioning the Masai tribe that has been around for centuries. All the while Margaret doesn’t fit in and stays quiet. She has something to prove but does little to promote her capabilities. Oddly, it is only after tragedy strikes is she then able to find her voice. This tragedy will carry consequences long into the future; long after Margaret finds a photography job with a controversial newspaper; long after Patrick and Margaret have new troubles in their marriage.
I couldn’t get a read on Margaret. It was weird, but I found her to be a bit unemotional. She was strangely calm when the couple’s only car is stolen or when she is attacked by fire ants. [The fire ant scene made me itch for days.]

As an aside, there were several things I needed to look up after reading A Change in Altitude. The breed of dog called “Rhodesian Ridgeback” for one. Mount Monadnock for another.

Author fact: Shreve spent some time in Nairobi, Kenya and even climbed Mount Kenya. This definitely helped with her descriptions of the area, if not the characters.

Book trivia: A Change in Altitude is Shreve’s 16th book.

Nancy said: Pearl called A Change in Altitude one of her “favorite” Shreve books.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Kenya” (p 123).