Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

From the back cover: "I wonder this: If you take a woman and push her to the edge, how will she behave?" The question is posed by Jean, a photographer, who in 1995 arrives on Smuttynose Island, off the coast of Maine, to research a century-old crime. As she immerses herself in the details of the case - an outburst of passion that resulted in the deaths of two women - Jean herself enters precarious emotional testimony. The suspicion that her husband is having an affair burgeons into jealousy and distrust, and ultimately propels Jean to the verge of actions she had not known herself capable of - actions with horrific consequences.

Oops I did it again..cue Brittney Spears. I can't believe that another book that I read and didn't particularly like accidentally cycled back into my TBR (to be read) pile and, even worse, then onto my Fall Into Reading Challenge List - and made the top 10! This would give you an impression that my house is in such a state of disorganization that I should immediately get off the Internet and go clean. That may be partly true. But also, how do you account for my flipping through some pages and reading the back cover to check it out and assessing it as a "Top 10" on my list of TBR books after I have already read it?! No retention whatsoever of what I have read? Apparently. So the short version is...didn't like it very much then, don't like it very much now. For the long version, keep reading.

Anita Shreve writes some great stuff...Sea Glass and The Pilot's Wife were favorites of mine. With this book, Weight of Water, Anita did double duty because she really wrote two stories at once. First was the story set in present day of the photographer going off on her adventure and the relationships with the people along the way. (BTW - LOVE that story!). But then she includes the sub-story of the history of the island and a murder that happened there among Norwegian immigrants. This story would seem to have to the makings of something that would really interest me. It's set in Maine - I've lived there! It's about Norwegian immigrants - my family tree is solidly rooted in Norwegian immigrants. The Norwegian aspect would usually be enough to capture me right there. I am always trying to form a more detailed mental picture of Norwegians. You know other ethnic groups have such a defined image - say Irish immigrant - the red hair, the brogue, the melancholy funeral songs all leap to mind, say Italian immigrant - big bosomed women, pasta, randy, handsome men - but say Norwegian immigrants and ...blank - not much there to establish your cultural identity. But even that wasn't enough to intrigue me. I just didn't like the sub-story. So as a result, I just didn't like - half the book!

The half I did like - the modern story - was right up my alley. I would like to read more about these people. When it ended I sighed, wishing the story would go on. That may be how this book ended up back in my TBR pile. Maybe there was a part of me that said, "Anita Shreve is such a good story teller, you need to try that again, Round File, and see if you can't get more interested in those Norwegians." Well I tried, and I couldn't. But if you don't feel you need to get your money's worth by reading a whole book - half of this one is excellent - thumb up.

1 comment:

Beth F said...

Thanks for the review. I have Pilot's Wife around here somewhere. Glad to know that it's a good one.