Monday, September 13, 2010
The Weight of Water - (Beachreader)
Title: The Weight of Water
Author: Anita Shreve
Published: 1997, Little, Brown and Company
Accolades: 1998 Short list for The Orange Prize
Around midnight on the evening of March 5th, 1873 two women were strangled and hacked with an axe on Smuttynose Island in the Isles of Shoals, a group of islands off the coast of New Hampshire. Another woman survived being murdered by hiding in a cave until help arrived. Though a man was found guilty of the crimes and later hung, there has been continual debate in this seaside community that the real murderer escaped justice and that an innocent man was killed. In 1995 a woman photographer arrives to investigate the murders and finds her self caught-up in the treachery of the past which will end up shaping her future.
Based on the true story of a century-old murder case Anita Shreve has blended fact and fiction in an engrossing tale of pain, loss, and obsession. The book is really two stories in one. The first story takes place in modern time and is the story of Jean, the photographer, and her concern that her marriage is ending and her husband is having an affair. The second (and much more interesting) story is the written account of Maren Hontvedt, the women who has survived the murders, who on her deathbed has decided to tell what really happened on the evening of March 5th.
I have mixed feelings about this book. The mystery surrounding the murders of the women was fascinating and Shreve has masterfully woven a tale of increasing tension and suspicion that when the murderer is finally revealed I was surprised. My problem with the book was the characters - especially the characters of Jean and her husband. They were rather - blah. They seemed to be floating around their lives and there wasn't enough emotion or motivation to make me really care what happened to them. I found myself skimming their section of the book to read about Maren's account of what led to the murders. What happens to Jean and her husband felt almost contrived and the last chapter had me wondering - huh?
My Rating: 3 out of 5