Olympic special: diving into the future

the book:

Aquamarine by Carol Anshaw

published 1992

[Jesse is in the final of an Olympic swimming event in Mexico City in 1968]

And then, there’s the slick slap of tile on the palm of her hand as she finishes where she started. She comes up fast and flushed and eating air. She corkscrews out of the water, ripping off her goggles, looking round wildly for signs. To her left, in Lane 5, Marty has also touched. She’s pulling off her cap with a rubbery squeak, bending back, her hair catching the water like white seagrass. Jesse watches this for a moment; it’s part of the too much happening all at once. She’s still looking for the word to come down.

Then Bud is crouching on the rim of the pool above her, shaking his head, holding up two fingers. She has come in second, taken the silver.

observations: Till now Clothes in Books has been an Olympic-free zone – we tried to think of sports books, and this is the only one we could come up with. But what a book: no excuses need to feature it. Why is Carol Anshaw not better known? Her handful of works are all seductive, wonderful, mesmerizing.

This passage comes on the fourth page of the book, so it is not a spoiler: the novel deals with the life Jesse makes for herself after her lost moment at the Olympics, when she is ‘looking to fill in the several suddenly open hours a day during which it was no longer necessary to be in the water.’ Anshaw shows us three different possibilities, all completely convincing, while Jesse never forgets that she loved Marty and fears that she was betrayed by her.

Links up with: In a completely different world, Oxford female undergraduates of the 1930s are
expected to wear swimsuits for sunbathing. We’re all trying not to think that the Olympic Games are a bit like the Hunger Games (where our Katniss has goggles too).

The photo shows women in a diving event rather than swimming, but a) they are wearing the right gear b) Jesse has three alternate lives c) it’s her dive into the pool that goes wrong and c) it’s just a great picture. It is from the University of Washington
digital collection.


  1. Great photo. Re the Dualit toaster, we have had no trouble with it - it does have a mechanical timer so the only trick perhaps is to put the second lot of toast on for a little bit less time because once the toaster is heated up it will toast the next pieces more quickly

    Have a great week.

  2. Great photo indeed! Just dropped Nicola off at her University of Washington dorm yesterday. She's doing Early Fall Start.
    This is another one going on my to-read Goodreads, but don't hold your breath - you know me - the brain is willing but the free time is weak. I.e. do not get as many books read as I want to!
    Just re-reading Little Bee for book group tomorrow's meeting.

  3. We'll take that as a good omen for Nicola, UW featuring on the blog! They do good photos as well as being a great Uni - didja see this one http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/dress-down-sunday-sunbathing-wearing.html - not that N will be doing THAT.
    Just worked out that Little Bee is called something else over here...

    1. Yes, The Other Hand, I think. Watched Incendiary at the w/e. Michele williams was amazing.


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