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

The Weight of Water

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  21,431 Ratings  ·  1,395 Reviews
When a photographer researches a legendary crime that took place a century earlier, she immerses herself in the details of the case--and finds herself caught in the grip of an uncontrollable emotion.
Paperback, 246 pages
Published January 7th 1998 by Back Bay Books (first published 1997)
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 The Weight of Water, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Anne You need to read the book to understand the significance of the title. It's actually genius, and it will be revealed towards the end of the book.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingMy Sister's Keeper by Jodi PicoultAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingThe Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Best Twists
124th out of 2,222 books — 4,716 voters
Little Women by Louisa May AlcottThe Cider House Rules by John IrvingThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneA Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe Crucible by Arthur Miller
New England Books
38th out of 512 books — 264 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Oy. Where to begin?

I realized I was skimming pages, something I only do when I'm really bored with a story, so I checked what page I was on.

46. Forty-six!

How is it possible that it moves soooo slow that forty-six pages felt like a hundred?

Know what I don't need?
- Adjectives in every single sentence.
- The same island described a million times.
- The regular reminder in every chapter that the husband is a poet and (surprise!) liked to drink.
- Reminders every two pages that she's jealous.

Apr 21, 2010 Tory rated it really liked it
“I learned that night that love is never as ferocious as when you think it is going to leave you. We are not always allowed this knowledge, and so our love sometimes becomes retrospective.”

Anita Shreve has such a somber but beautiful voice. Her stories are incredibly emotional.

The plot was somewhat scattered and none of the characters were developed enough for me to love them. However, that didn’t take away from this book for me, as it usually would. Some writers, good characters are all they h
David Abrams
Sep 27, 2010 David Abrams rated it really liked it
Anita Shreve (author of the much-touted "The Pilot’s Wife") has done the near-impossible in "The Weight of Water." She has written two tragic tales, separated by more than 100 years, and coiled them seamlessly into one compelling narrative. This is one of the most emotional, provocative and exciting novels I’ve read in a long time. For those who dismissed "The Pilot’s Wife" with a shrug, this is THE Shreve novel to search out at the local bookstore. "The Weight of Water" is a much better crafted ...more
Jun 30, 2013 Connie rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads, 2013
Shreve is a lyrical storyteller, but this one did not come together for me as much as some. I loved the idea of the old murder mystery, combined with the present day...but felt little attachment to the characters of the present.
I will say, I figured out the twist in the past story, but did not see the present day twist coming...kind of blindsided me. She paints a beautiful picture of her settings and I was transported to a different and harsh time. A rather sad story overall.
Jan 22, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 20, 2007 Sherry rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2006-2010
22. "On a small island off the New Hampshire coast in 1873, two women were brutally murdered by an unknown assailant. A third woman survived the attack, hiding in a sea cave until dawn. More than a century later, a photographer, Jean, comes to the island to shoot a photo-essay about the legendary crime. Immersing herself in accounts of the lives of the fishermen's wives who were its victims, she becomes obsessed with the barrenness of these women's days: the ardor-killing labor, the long ...more
Jan 11, 2014 Gail rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ladies looking for a beach read; romantic teenagers
Anita Shreve could be described as a guilty potato chips. I thought this was one of her better efforts, with interwoven plots, some great characterization, and a very sure hand with the New England background. Even though I saw the present-day plot twist coming from about page 10, the book still held my interest...I mentally screamed, "Look out! Disaster ahead!" several times. I enjoyed this book very much, but most of her others, notably "The Pilot's Wife" (gee, how could the ...more
Asghar Abbas
Jun 11, 2016 Asghar Abbas rated it really liked it

A true watery dirge. Harrowing and ultimately haunting.
Barbara Poore
Oct 12, 2009 Barbara Poore rated it it was ok
My friend lent this to me while traveling in Spain since my other books were stolen. I doubt that I would have picked it up on my own. The double story of a woman who travels to an island off Portsmouth NH (Smuttynose--there is a present day brewery of that name in Portsmouth--who knew?) to research the 19c murder of two women on the island, interspersed with the story of the murders by one of the survivors. The present day story seems poorly grounded....what magazine would pay a photographer to ...more
Apr 06, 2009 Cheri rated it liked it
This book may be best summed up as a summer read, chick lit guiltily knotted into historical fiction. Anita Shreve binds together the gristly 19th c. murders at Smuttynose, a small island off the coast of New Hampshire, with the slow keening of a contemporary marriage.

As a child I grew up sailing and anchoring off the Isles of Shoals, listening to tales of the pirate Bluebeard, treasure and murder; swimming in the deep black waters; and exploring Smuttynose and the Haley house (of which I'm a d
Dec 31, 2008 Antof9 rated it it was ok
It's very rare that a book -- especially a standard-issue novel -- sends me to the dictionary. This one did not once, but twice, and early in the book. Although I've heard both words many times, and knew in general what they meant, I felt compelled to look up their real meanings, given the sentences they fell in. The sentences, with the words in italics below:
"The island is not barren, but it is sere and bleak."
"The Isles of Shoals, an archipelago, lie in the Atlantic, ten miles southeast off th
Apr 28, 2010 Carla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it is just me but I had a difficult time with this book on an ethical basis. Two stories within a story. One in current time the other based on an actual event that occurred in 1873 on Smuttynose Island. Shreve offers the reader her own alternate theory of what happened in 1873 through one of her fictional characters removing a ficitional diary of the sole survivor (real person)from the archive of a library. We, the reader, learn the truth about the murders through this discovered diary. ...more
This novel and Shreve's other book, "The Last Time They Met" are intertwined. The hero and his spouse appear in both novels. If it were me, I'd read "The Weight of Water" first. It explains the shocking ending of "The Last Time They Met." You don't have to read "The Last Time They Met" to realize the full impact of this story. Like so many of Anita Shreve's works, this one is very emotional. She has a way of ending a book in such a way you're left thinking about it days later. This isn't light ...more
Jacquelyn Mitchard
How many times have I read this novel and felt the weight of its somber message and its deep artistry? Six? Seven? And how many times have I visited the place where the ancient events happened, on a tiny, forbidding island off the coast of New Hampshire?
Este foi mais um livro que li no âmbito do projeto conjunto que tenho com a Denise do blog Quando se abre um livro. Um dos motivos pelos quais a Denise me enviou este livro era possibilitar-me fazer "as pazes" com esta autora. E, em parte, conseguiu! Consegui gostar mais deste livro que que aquele que li anteriormente.

A ilha dos desencontros apresenta-nos duas histórias em dois momentos temporais distintos. Um no passado e outro no presente. No início, a forma que a autora escolheu para integrar
Jun 29, 2012 Molly rated it it was amazing
I have always regarded Shreve as a "borderline junk novel" writer. Her storylines are engaging, always containing an element of juicy scandal, but her writing style is not accomplished. There are some authors whose prose alone can make you pause in astonishment. Shreve is not one of those writers. In this novel, however, her sparse narrative blends seemlessly with the world that it describes. The novel takes place on and around the island of Smuttynose, off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire ...more
In The Weight of Water, Anita Shreve tells a story of pain, jealousy, and passion. Her characters and their closest relationships--with siblings, with partners--are trapped in isolated and claustrophobic spaces. Shreve tells the story of the murders of two Norwegian immigrant women on Smuttynose Island off the coast of New Hampshire in the late 19th century. She explores the 19th Century events in the context of a contemporary photographer's trip to the island to capture the location for a magaz ...more
Nadine Doolittle
Oct 14, 2010 Nadine Doolittle rated it liked it
I was surprised when I finished this book to discover I kind of liked it when there are so many reasons not to.

1)The long and largely irrelevant passages about Maren's life in Norway.
2) The unexplained hostility between the two sisters (Maren and Karen--yikes--imagination where art thou?)
3)The past story of the murders and the present tale of jealousy went off the rails at the critical moment. Frankly, the whole narrative from the past didn't hang together very well.
4)The cliched moody drunk p
Michelle Powers
Mar 10, 2008 Michelle Powers rated it really liked it
One of those novels that is 2 stories in one. A contemporary story of a woman, her husband and daughter, sailing with his brother and the brother's girlfriend off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine so she can photograph the scene of a murder that took place 150 years earlier. The tension of the people on the boat is revealed right away.

And then through trial transcripts and a memoir that has never been found before, the story of Norwegian immigrants who settled on this islands off the coast.
Jun 04, 2012 Sharon rated it really liked it
This novel is really two stories in one. First there is the story of Norwegian immigrants coming to America, and secondly we have the contemporary story of a photographer going to the island where the immigrants lived to photograph and research a 100 year old murder.

A murder of two women took place over 100 years ago on the island of Smutty Nose in the Isles of Shoals. Maren Hanvent moves to this very remote, sparse island with her fisherman husband. They are followed by her sister and brother
Apr 18, 2010 Bridget rated it liked it
I wish they had 1/2 stars because if they did, I would give this one a 2 1/2; they don't so I bumped it to a three simply because the story was set around the Isle of Shoals which is a near and dear to me because of my childhood and looking out at the Shoals with my Gram. I didn't realize all of the history to the Shoals and that is what I enjoyed the most, however, I didn't enjoy the fact that Anita Shreve took a real murder and put her own twist to it and "who did it" that was completely ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love Anita Shreve.
Read this for my circle group, luckily it was one of hers I hadn't read.
I loved the way the modern and real life events of 1873 are interwoven.
It's a chilling novel but I was soon engrossed.
The descriptions of the harsh conditions and climate left you feeling chilled!
Beautifully written and very compelling.
Had me up late last night to finish!
Jan 30, 2011 Renee rated it liked it
Having lived in so many areas of the country, I have always enjoyed reading works of fiction by authors who are local to the area where I am currently living. It is interesting to get a regional historical perspective through the intertwining of real places, people and events in order to understand the backdrop for an author’s story.

Anita Shreve is a masterful author from New England who has taken a real event—a horrific double murder of two Norwegian women in the Isle of Shoals in the late 180
Craig Dube
Dec 08, 2012 Craig Dube rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A book selection from our Book Club group (and one that has long been recommended by my wife), I found that I was pleasantly surprised with this book and really enjoyed it. The backdrop for this story is a series of murders that took place on Smuttynose Island back in a 1873. Two Norwegian women were brutally murdered while a third woman escaped by spending a frozen March night in a nearby sea cave. Living near Portsmouth NH, this is one of the more notorious murders and one that carries some ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire

After reading the hefty and only half good Fortune's Rocks I wanted to read some more of Shreve so I picked the slimmest volume in the bookshop hoping that she could write more consistently compellingly in a shorter work. And I got what I wanted - this book would have been unputdownable if I hadn't have had so much to do. I woke up before my alarm this morning and before I got a chance to decide whether I really ought to try and get a little more sleep my head had decided I needed to finish this

Lisa (Harmonybites)
Dec 20, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I couldn't warm to this book. I think it tries too hard, it feels affected, insincere. It's mostly told from the perspective of Jean. She's a photographer sent to get photographs of Smuttynose, Maine, part of the Shoal Islands near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1873, it was the setting of a gruesome double murder, so she visits the island accompanied by her husband, five-year-old daughter and her brother-in-law and his girlfriend. The novel is mostly written in a first person present voice that ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Christine rated it liked it
After reading this, nothing was left of my energy to write a review so I'm writing it just now. It was okay overall since it is averaged but between the two stories involved (SPOILER) I like the "now" story more. Every time the Isles of Shoals is brought up and because I don't live in the West nor I've seen it in a picture or read of it in a book prior, I can only imagine isles of rock not worthy to be a place to live in. Charcoal color, gray to black stones, shading style in drawing, dark blue ...more
Oct 05, 2011 Caley rated it liked it
Definitely an evocative novel, the grimness of the Northeastern Atlantic was all there and the fated relationship between the main couple was clear from Shreve's nuanced description of their day-to-day interactions. Unfortunately, that's really the only strong point of this novel. Minus these poignant descriptions, the rest of the plot was unnecessarily drawn out to supposedly create some sort of suspense that falls terribly flat. This is not a "whodunnit" tale and only a inattentive reader ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Lorrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, anita-shreve
Oh, man, I'm torn, twisted, seasick, I think, after finishing this book. Two different stories were going on and Shreves had me going back and forth and back and forth till at the end my dinner was coming back up in my throat. Even though I picked this book up and read about 15 pages a couple weeks ago, I finally then read the entire book in one day. I could not put it down! It was totally absorbing and slightly sickening but very good! I want to give it 5 stars but can only give it 4 since it ...more
Catherine Gordon
Dec 31, 2012 Catherine Gordon rated it liked it
I actually liked this book more than I thought I would. The modern day character Jean is rather annoying however I did like the descriptions of her role as a photographer as they felt genuine. The landscape is well written and you can feel the isolation and the cold that is described. I like the style of writing very much. However the characters in this time period are shallow. Jean isn't likeable and her actions don't make sense. The murder story is real and I don't know how comfortable I feel ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The two different murder scenarios 2 35 Mar 06, 2014 01:49PM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Weight of Water Review by Julia Joseph 1 4 Jul 27, 2013 11:12AM  
Worcester Public ...: "A Memorable Murder" 1 6 Apr 08, 2013 09:01AM  
Worcester Public ...: What the Critics Have Said 1 7 Mar 27, 2013 07:53AM  
  • Short History of a Prince
  • Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God
  • The Dancers Dancing
  • Fortune's Hand
  • One by One in the Darkness
  • Spinsters
  • The Pull of The Moon
  • A Little Death
  • The Most Wanted
  • Afternoon of  an Autocrat
  • For Love
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • Homework
  • If I Told You Once
  • The Wheat Field
  • Hanna's Daughters
  • Outer Banks
  • The Broken Hearts Club
Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). ...more
More about Anita Shreve...

Share This Book

“Sometimes I think that if it were possible to tell a story often enough to make the hurt ease up, to make the words slide down my arms and away from me like water, I would tell that story a thousand times.” 30 likes
“I learned that night that love is never as ferocious as when you think it is going to leave you. We are not always allowed this knowledge, and so our love sometimes becomes retrospective.” 24 likes
More quotes…