Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Aquamarine” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  653 Ratings  ·  74 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, 197 pages
Published November 14th 1997 by Mariner Books (first published 1992)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Aquamarine, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Aquamarine

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersFingersmith by Sarah WatersAnnie on My Mind by Nancy GardenKeeping You a Secret by Julie Anne PetersFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Lesbian Fiction
248th out of 1,299 books — 1,574 voters
Swim to Me by Betsy CarterBarrakuda by Christos TsiolkasBliss, Remembered by Frank DefordOut of Synch by Warren FirscheinDeep Wizardry by Diane Duane
Best books about swimming, fiction
16th out of 22 books — 7 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,377)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 20, 2015 Kerri rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this smart, well-constructed, warm, and occasionally witty novel that looks at three different versions of Olympic silver medalist Jesse Austin's life, based on three different choices made at one pivotal point.

It contains lots of sharp and insightful observations about the nature of love, attraction, regret, and obsession, while avoiding the sentimentalism that often taints projects like this. Anshaw pays close attention to detail in her construction of the three alternate
Julie Ehlers
May 23, 2015 Julie Ehlers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I initially gave this book three stars, but upon further reflection I'm bumping it up to four. This novel gives us a brief snapshot of Jesse, a teenage Olympic swimmer, and then goes on the show three vastly different portrayals of her life, based on what might've happened if she'd made one decision or another once her swimming career was over. We've seen this idea in other books and movies, but this book, published in 1992, may have actually been first.

I loved many things about this book. The c
Oct 02, 2007 Jess rated it it was amazing
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
Elaine Burnes
May 26, 2014 Elaine Burnes rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
David Jay
Apr 18, 2012 David Jay rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 06, 2008 treehugger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lesbian-lgbt-lit
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
Apr 06, 2009 Grey rated it it was amazing
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
Kelley Brown
Jul 12, 2015 Kelley Brown rated it really liked it
I love the idea of looking a 3 different ways Jesse's life could have gone. I came away feeling the bittersweet joy and sadness of all the lives of my own that I've missed by putting my focus on what I thought I should feel/be/know/do.

"She should pry herself away from here, light out for the territory, wherever that might be. Sometimes, particularly on windless days like this one, she thinks she might truly die with longing for something to get her out of here, something to at least point her i
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
Chris Swann
Oct 07, 2012 Chris Swann rated it liked it
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.
Jan 29, 2016 Hubert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: fiction, lgbtq
Very sensitively written novel centered around Jesse Austin, whose second place finish in Olympic swimming decades ago (lost against a friend) manages to haunt her very existence to current day. The novel is structured so that we witness three possible "continuations" of her life 20 years afterwards; one as a lesbian academic living in NY, one as a divorcee living in Florida, and another as still living in her hometown in Missouri. The veritable likeable godmother character shows up in various g ...more
May 01, 2008 Toby rated it it was amazing
Like a giant Ready Whip can. Delicious.
How do you measure trauma? There is no scale, no formula to predict how certain events affect any one person. What we do know, is that under the right circumstances, something that might seem minor to one person, can have a profound and lasting effect on someone else. This is what happens to Jessie, who at barely 18 experiences the defining moment of her life. In each of the next three chapters we meet Jessie again now 39, in parallel lives. In each life she makes very different choices, but all ...more
Apr 21, 2014 Kate rated it liked it
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
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
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 Michael Armijo rated it it was ok
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
Mistinguette Smith
Aug 24, 2009 Mistinguette Smith rated it liked it
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
Lynn Kanter
Oct 03, 2014 Lynn Kanter rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2014 Alli Sinclair rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 11, 2011 Alice rated it really liked it
Shelves: girl-lit
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
Apr 04, 2012 Alisa rated it really liked it
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
Jun 23, 2008 Danielle Franco-Malone rated it really liked it
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
May 22, 2016 Dona rated it it was amazing
Carol Anshaw experiments with a triptych of life paths for her protagonist in this novel in three parts or three novellas. The total is exciting, compelling, and absolutely cool.
Tom Leland
May 04, 2015 Tom Leland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this -- three different takes on how an Olympic swimmer's life could turn out --
spot-on descriptions of small-town life and a rural America much like where I grew up
Sep 15, 2014 A rated it liked it
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
Myra Leysorek
Feb 04, 2016 Myra Leysorek rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the opening section, an Olympic swim from the POV of one swimmer, but I found the rest not so worthwhile.
Interesting story premise - and 4 versions of a life
Sep 24, 2012 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 45 46 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
500 Great Books B...: Aquamarine - Carol Anshaw 1 5 Jul 12, 2014 08:59PM  
  • The Sea of Light
  • This Is Not For You
  • Olivia
  • A Seahorse Year
  • Love You Two
  • Bi-Normal
  • On Strike Against God
  • Miss Peabody's Inheritance
  • The Intersection of Law and Desire (Micky Knight, #3)
  • Hood
  • A Map of Home
  • The Blue Place (Aud Torvingen, #1)
  • I'll Be Leaving You Always (Lauren Laurano, #2)
  • Girls, Visions and Everything: A Novel
  • Other Women
  • Eustace Chisholm and the Works: A Novel
  • Two Serious Ladies
  • Sita
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...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »