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Aquamarine

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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  544 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Olympic swimmer Jesse Austin is seduced and consequently edged out for a gold medal by her Australian rival. From there, Anshaw intricately traces three possible paths for Jesse, spinning exhilarating variations on the themes of lost love and parallel lives unlived. Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina, writes, "I found myself wishing I could buy a dozen copi ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 14th 1997 by Mariner Books (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,124)
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Jess
Oct 02, 2007 Jess rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who is stuck
I read this book before I moved to Portland, before my life really started. In my sheltered, plastic world, this novel stood out for its authenticity, its daring. I picked it up for very superficial reasons: I liked the cover, I'd been a competitive swimmer, and aquamarine is my birthstone. I nudged my paradigm ever so slightly. I realized that the path I was on was the not the only path I could take. In fact, looking back the reading of this novel may have been a watershed moment. I took the re ...more
Chris Swann
3.5 stars. Cool exercise in exploring three possible lives in the aftermath of one person's shot at glory. Anshaw writes well and tellingly. I took a class with her in grad school and she was generous, honest, and refreshing--hard to be both candid and supportive at the same time when you read and critique someone's creative writing, but she managed to do it.
Elaine Burnes
When I finished Carry the One, I was curious about Anshaw. I looked up this book, figuring I might read it some day. Well, the plus side of clearing out the basement is that I found a box full of lesfic I thought I'd given away, including this! (Though in retrospect, this is not lesfic.) The narrator tells three possible versions of her life after competing in the Mexico City Olympics as a swimmer. There, she has an encounter with a gorgeous swimmer from Australia. I don't quite see how these th ...more
David Jay
The book opens with Jesse competing as a swimmer for the US at the 1968 Olympics where she takes the silver medal. From there, the book veers off in three different directions. The book jumps to 1990, finding Jesse nearing 40 and contemplating her life from three dramatically different vantage points. Following the Olympics, she makes various decisions and Anshaw tracks how different her life would have been if she had made some choices as opposed to others. For example, one story line has her m ...more
Estefania Ramirez
Aquamarine is a book were there’s drama. Hailey and Clare are spending their last hot, hot summer together. While at the beach, they went to the pool and saw an amazing sight. A beautiful mermaid named aquamarine. Little did they know but she would impact their life’s .at the beginning, aquamarine was a spoiled, selfish, rude mermaid. As she interacted with them she became nicer aquamarine impacted Hailey and Clare’s lives because they had never seen a mermaid before. She also made there’s last ...more
treehugger
This book so deserves 5 stars! It was a super-fast read, because you just couldn't get enough of the story - you just HAD to know what kind of life she would live next, what kind of compromises she would make in the major decisions that make up a lifetime until she finally admitted her own truth to herself..

It's a story about an Olympic swimmer and the many paths (fleshed out) that her life could have taken after the fateful day in the Olympic pool when she competed for the gold medal..

I can't s
...more
Esmeralda Penaloza
This book is about 2 best friend's who live in the beach and one day the she saw a creature move inside the pool after a bad storm, they waned to find out what was in there... the rest is for you to find out.
The reason that i chosed this book is because, I like these tipe of books it's the tipe of books that doesn't make you sleepy you stay reading it to try and find out what was inside the pool. It also gives a lot of explnation and descrives the setting perfectly. well thats how i thought of
...more
Grey
I wouldn't call it timeless, but I would call it marvelous.

I did a little Reader's Advisory work for my friend A-, a very finicky fiction reader. In reading about this book, I was enamored with the premise: Three possible futures are woven for a woman who narrowly missed winning a swimming gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics. The tales -- as a small-town wife, a cosmopolitan lesbian returning home, and a single parent of troubled teenagers -- are wonderfully consistent and richly original on
...more
anexactinglife
Although I try not to bring home too many discarded books from the library, this was among the few I let in. It is the author's first, it received rave reviews and won several awards, and the author has gone on to write three more critically acclaimed novels. The first thing I noticed about it is that it captured the way people acted, spoke and thought in 1990 perfectly. That was almost 25 years ago, and all of us have a very different sensibility now. The book took place during the pre-Internet ...more
Lissa
In 1968, Jesse Austin took the silver medal for the hundred-meter freestyle in Mexico City. After the Olympics, Jesse has to make some quick and tough decisions that will shape her life in numerous ways. The author depicts three of these potential lives: giving up swimming completely and staying home, becoming a literature professor and a mostly-out lesbian in New York City, and being a single mother to two children in Florida.

It was interesting to see that, no matter how different the lives, ho
...more
Toby
Like a giant Ready Whip can. Delicious.
Kate
The ‘Sliding Doors’ concept is not particularly new yet it takes a certain skill to pull off convincing alternative stories for the same set of characters. Carol Anshaw does it beautifully in Aquamarine, a story that begins with Olympic swimmer Jesse Austin, seduced and consequently edged out for a gold medal by her Australian rival, Marty.

“It won’t take a scaling down of expectation to accept this defeat, but rather a substantial reconstruction of her notion of herself. And she must accomplish
...more
Her Royal Orangeness
Jesse Austin is a swimmer who takes the silver medal at the Olympics. The first place gold goes to her rival, Marty, with whom Jesse has had a brief fling. What will Jesse do with what she perceives as failure, and how will she cope when Marty ends their burgeoning relationship without an explanation? Carol Anshaw delves into these questions, and explores three possible paths that Jesse’s life may have taken.

It is quite marvelous how Anshaw created Jesse’s alternative pathways through life. She
...more
Michael Armijo
Michael Cunningham (who wrote the fabulous book THE HOURS) recommended this book. I can see how he liked the stance of a woman who is a champion swimmer and takes a dive into three different scenarios of how her life could have been. I suppose it's up to the reader to decide which is the TRUE story (if one wants to go that route). Alas, the book didn't flow as well as I would have liked. There were some memorable lines though:
"I don't want you to think I'm after your secrets. I'm not. I'm just
...more
Mistinguette Smith
Aquamarine is an ambitious literary take on a common daydream : What would my life life be like if I had...

By giving the reader three life narratives of a single character, an Olympic swimmer whose passion for a competitor cost her the gold medal, Anshaw raises a provocative query about how our perceptions of a single event can shape every aspect of the rest of our lives. At the root of each story are the same questions: What does it means to decide that we come in second, instead of first? Wha
...more
Lynn Kanter
Anshaw creates three alternate and equally plausible lives for Jessie, an Olympic swimmer who almost wins a gold medal but loses it to the Australian swimmer she has fallen in love with. Or was it love? Did the Australian woman woo her only to break her concentration? And which of the three possible futures does Jessie experience? Enjoyable and thought provoking.
Alli Sinclair
I'm a fan of multi-timeline books so I was very much looking forward to reading Aquamarine. Happily, I can say I wasn't disappointed. Although it's a short book, it packs a lot of punch in those pages and gives the reader a very good insight into the different ways the heroine's life could have gone. A wonderful read and now I'm off to find more Carol Anshaw books.
Alice
Ok, giving it four stars because despite not being bowled over by it, I kept wanting to go back to it until it was done, which I don't usually do as I am an easily distracted person.

The basic premise is this girl gets the silver medal for some swimming event in the Olympics, and right after it is the crucial time when the course of her life is decided. The author shows three (or four? maybe? I don't know; I'm not picking up the book) different paths that could've happened. It's really interestin
...more
Alisa
A enjoyable novel of the "what-if," it follows the various paths a life can take. The places where Jesse Austin's life ends up couldn't be more different, but the author does a good job of maintaining a consistent, but not identical, personality for the various manifestations her character. I do have two complaints: I wish the final, short chapter had taken place somewhat into the future instead of July 1990 again. Then we could wonder: which of the three Jesses is this? Or do all roads eventual ...more
Danielle Franco-Malone
Loved it!! This book was about something I think about all the time - how decisions in your early adulthood can shape the rest of your life. This book starts out with a brief glimpse into Jesse's life as an 18 year old who has just won an Olympic medal for swimming. The rest of the book is divided into thirds. Each one is a snapshot of Jesse's life as a 39 year old and each is an equally feasible, completely different way her life could have turned out (lesbian living in New York, adulterous mot ...more
A
Sep 15, 2014 A rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: read-2014
This was enjoyable enough, the chief thrill obviously arising from the "aha!" moments throughout as Anshaw makes symbolic and logistical connections among the 3 stories. I don't think anyone has ever imbued scrambled eggs with such meaning, and the only other time I've enjoyed a demented sex-crazed soap opera nurse character this much was of course Cathy Moriarty as Montana Moorehead in "Soapdish," which is saying a lot since Montana is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Other ...more
Louisamursell
Interesting story premise - and 4 versions of a life
Kate

This novel explores the might have beens that all of us contemplate from time to time. What if I had made this choice, moved to this town, taken this job rather than that one. After Jesse comes in second at her event in the Mexico City Olympics, the novel explores three possible paths her life may have taken, and concludes that no matter what, she would have needed some closure with Marty, the opponent who beat her. As an exercise, it is interesting enough, without being terribly affecting of t
...more
Cricket
This was a fun, thought-provoking book-- a quick read. It followed its main character through three possible lives. Her main preoccupation in this book (and also one that runs through Seven Moves, another one of hers that I read recently): there are lives that we choose that enable a more full version of ourselves and ones that we could choose that lead to a diminished version of ourselves. Each of the lives seemed to have its own delights, though, which is a solace.
Danie
Read this 'cause everyone plus one, recommended it. I thought that it was definitely interesting. Taking one life and one moment and splintering it three ways. I really liked what people were in all three, how they were the same or different in all three. Very thought provoking.

What I didn't get was the very end of the book though. Maybe I missed something after the third story, but, I guess I didn't really get the point of the final chapter.
Heather
I would rate this book between three to four stars, if I could. It should definitely be placed in some kind of in-between. Some of the chapters take place at the same time as others and with the same characters, but the scenarios are different. They are contingent upon choices the main character makes in her youth. It's enjoyable to read these "what-if" situations, especially since the writing's engaging and the main character has a bit of a smart mouth.
Cherie
A Really excellent novel with a very unique method--the novel starts out with Jesse Austin in the Olympics as a 100 meter swimmer when she is 17 years old; then it flashes forward to three separate sections of three different lives she could have taken. I love it b/c by the end, I really love the characters, b/c I've seen them in a variety of perspectives (esp. Jesse, William and I love Hallie!). I highly recommend this wonderfully written novel.
Red
this book was pretty interesting. a little heavy-handed with the colors and the metaphors (and with the spotlighting of the plot features). what I really appreciated was the thoughtfulness - the book imagines three different life paths for one woman, and I think its strength was in fully realizing each of these three possibilities. there were also a few brilliantly funny deadpan lines in the book that really cut to the quick.
Caitlin
I hate that I had to give this novel only four stars, but the last section was weaker than the two previous alternate realities and the "conclusion" was completely unnecessary. However, beautiful beautiful book, different settings and relationships complicated the recurring characters in an innovative way. I will read this book again in the future and I don't do that very often. (I'll just tear out the last three pages.)
Cindi
This book was ok. A light, easy read except for the part when I got really confused. I had forgotten the book delves into multiple scenarios and what ifs covering the same time span. Once I remembered that, by reading the back cover, it fell back into place. I'm still not sure which of the life paths is the "real" one. Perhaps that's up to us to choose. Interested to hear others' takes on it during book club tomorrow.
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Carol Anshaw (born March 1946) is an American novelist and short story writer. Her books include Lucky in the Corner, Seven Moves and Aquamarine. Her stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories in 1994 and 1998. She acquired her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts (1992). She has won a National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, an NEA Grant, an Illinoi ...more
More about Carol Anshaw...
Carry the One Lucky in the Corner Seven Moves A Reader's Guide: Seven Moves & Aquamarine New Ohio Review Issue #10

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