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The Weight of Water
Anita Shreve
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The Weight of Water

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  22,304 Ratings  ·  1,443 Reviews
This powerful novel of obsession and betrayal is now available in paperback. 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 October 1st 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 1997)
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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.

David Abrams
Sep 27, 2010 David Abrams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2007 Tory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
This is a powerful book about jealousy, envy, rage and destructive secrets. I'd seen the movie, but the book is far more powerful and the consequences more devastating. I don't understand why they changed the ending in the film.
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2008 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 re ...more
Asghar Abbas
Aug 24, 2015 Asghar Abbas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A true watery dirge. Harrowing and ultimately haunting.
Aug 20, 2007 Sherry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 stretch ...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?
May 17, 2012 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Barbara Poore
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
Mar 30, 2009 Cheri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 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. M ...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
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
Jeanette Grant-Thomson
Make it three and a half stars. I consider this one of Shreve's better books although I find the subjects off-putting.

Jean, a photo-journalist, travels with her family to investigate the rumours that persist over the murders more than a century ago on the island of Smuttynose in the Isles of Shoals. Collecting material from a library, she finds the translated memoirs of Maren Honvet, the woman who escaped after the murders of her sister and sister-in-law.

Two stories are told, interwoven often wi
Michelle Powers
Mar 01, 2008 Michelle Powers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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 s ...more
Aug 03, 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!
Craig Dube
Nov 13, 2012 Craig Dube rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 co ...more
Silvana (Por detrás das Palavras)
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
Jul 11, 2012 Lorrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 m ...more
Nadine Doolittle
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
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 contr ...more
Apr 27, 2017 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a story within a story. Firstly there is the murders that occurred in 1873. Then there is the story of the photographer who was given an assignment to photo-journalist to investigate the murders more than one hundred years later.

The murders of two women occurred on the bleak and remote island of Smuttynose, just off the New Hampshire coast, they are Norwegian woman who have emigrated. Maren and John left Norway first to start their new life, to then be followed by Maren's sister Karen. T
Gail Thurston
Could fully appreciate the book when it was finished. Moved so slow but towards the end just wrapped it up and finished the story. Different writing style. Good story but didn't really like how it was written.
Jan 30, 2011 Renee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2017 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

We did not speak much, unless there was some unusual piece of information that needed to be imparted, or unless I was in need of some provisions, which I would inform John about. Early on, we had lost the habit of speech with each other, as I think must happen with other husbands and wives who dare not speak for fear of asking the wrong question, or of revealing a festering hurt or a love for another person which might be ruinous to the partnership they had formed.

I think marriage is th
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The two different murder scenarios 2 36 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 7 Apr 08, 2013 09:01AM  
Worcester Public ...: What the Critics Have Said 1 10 Mar 27, 2013 07:53AM  
  • The 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). A ...more
More about Anita Shreve...

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“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.” 29 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
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