THE WEIGHT OF WATER by Anita Shreve

THE WEIGHT OF WATER

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Though she fumbles slightly at the close, Shreve (Resistance, 1995, etc.) deftly juxtaposes a strained modern marriage and a century-old double murder. Jean is assigned to take photographs for a magazine piece about an ancient crime on the granite island of Smuttynose, off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She makes the journey to the island by sailboat, sharing the claustrophobic quarters with her five-year-old daughter Billie, her high-strung poet husband Thomas, his brother Rich, and Rich's girlfriend of a few months, Adaline. In 1873, two women were hacked to death on the island, and a third, apparently a survivor of the attack, was found hiding in a remote cave; a Prussian itinerant was convicted of the killings. In an uncatalogued archive in Portsmouth, Jean finds a pencil-written translation of the diary kept by Maren, the woman who survived, and, in a fit of pique caused by seeing her husband engrossed in conversation with attractive Adaline, she pockets it. And thus two dramas unspool side by side: On board, Jean focuses on the easy interaction between her husband and Rich's girlfriend and muses on the estrangement in her marriage. Maren's diary, meanwhile, describes her childhood in Norway and her incestuous love for her brother Evan. Married off to a taciturn fisherman, Maren settles on desolate Smuttynose, soon to be joined by her bad-tempered sister Karen and, later, by Evan and his new wife Anethe. Tortured by jealousy, Maren dutifully maintains her remote household, until, the diary tells us, her long-repressed rage is unleashed. It was, it turns out, Maren who killed Karen and Anethe. In present time, Jean ventures some betrayals of her own, and the small sailboat gets caught in a ferocious storm. The ensuing death at sea, however, feels unnecessary--a sort of cheap shot ending. The emotional losses depicted in the parallel stories are ultimately more haunting. Nonetheless, a highly readable yarn and a complex, convincing exploration of the ramifications of jealousy. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-316-78997-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1996




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