by Anne van Oorschot
We were happy to welcome 2 new members to our book discussion evening on January 23 and we had a cozy evening gathered around the fireplace in the library of the Harmonie. We were discussing The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve, a book which told the story of a brutal crime in the late 1800’s, and its consequences more than a hundred years later.On an island off the coast of New Hampshire, two Norwegian immigrant women were brutally murdered in 1875, and a third woman survived by hiding in a cave until dawn. In 1995, Jean, a photographer, is sent on an assignment to shoot a photo essay about the legendary crime. Taking her extended family with her, Jean stays in a sailboat anchored off the coast, and finds herself gradually becoming more and more engrossed in the mysterious and gruesome past.
The book alternated between the voice of Jean, the photographer, the diary of Maren, the woman who survived, and the transcript of the trail . Since these changes of narration were very abrupt, it was sometimes a bit confusing as to who was talking, but it was interesting to have the “crime situation” laid out from different viewpoints. We agreed that the evidence used to convict the ‘supposed perpetrator’ seemed very unlikely, and it became gradually clear that the murderer was a different person altogether. Whether or not the “facts” behind the murder were accurate or colored by time and perspective, remained somewhat of a mystery. While Jean blames herself for the final tragedy that occurs, we thought it questionable that it was really her “fault”. All in all, while not a favorite book, it was a good read and Shreve has a nice writing style: perfect for an interesting discussion!