Book Review – Swimming Lessons

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Title- Swimming Lessons
Author- Claire Fuller
Published- January 26th 2017
Genre- Contemporary
Length- 305 pages
Rating- 5/5

Synopsis (Amazon)-‘Gil Coleman looked down from the window and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.’

Gil’s wife, Ingrid has been missing, presumed drowned, for twelve years.

A possible sighting brings their children, Nan and Flora, home. Together they begin to confront the mystery of their mother. Is Ingrid dead? Or did she leave? And do the letters hidden within Gil’s books hold the answer to the truth behind his marriage, a truth hidden from everyone including his own children?

Review- I received an ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, so thank you to them.

So, to start with, I loved this book. I have read Our Endless Numbered Days, by the same author and really wasn’t that keen on it. I actually didn’t realise this was by the same author when I first got it, and I’m glad, because if I had I might not have picked it up. I read something about this book that, along with the title, made me think it might be a rip off of the Julia Roberts movie, Sleeping with the enemy. Spoiler alert, in that the wife disappears, her husband is abusive so she fakes a drowning after learning to swim in secret, and he later finds her. Anyway, back on topic, this isn’t like that, despite the book title!

The book is told in two different times, past and present. The present day follows Gil, the husband/father, and his two adult daughters Nan and Flora. The past is told by Ingrid, the missing wife/mother, in the form of hidden letters.

The book starts with Gil thinking he sees Ingrid, twelve years after she disappeared. He gets injured following her, which brings the two girls home to look after him. Gil is an author and has always collected books which cover the house. Ingrid hides her letters in these books in the last year or so before she disappears. You know from early on that Gil has found at least one of them, but you never really know if he reads them all, or actually any of the others.

Ingrid’s letters are my favourite part of the book. They go back to when she first meets Gil, and talk you through their entire marriage, the good and the bad. Flora was very young when Ingrid disappeared and remembers only the good, the letters show you all the hidden problems of the marriage. Despite Flora thinking everything is rosy throughout the book, the present day narration shows from the outset that Gil feels guilty, as he should. This is actually a pretty sad book, without giving too much away, Ingrid put up with a lot.

Throughout the book there are questions surrounding Ingrid’s disappearance, did she leave? The letters could certainly make you think she might. Or did she die? She did like to swim in the sea after all, which can obviously be very dangerous. Different characters have different opinions and it’s not only Gil that feels guilty. The book shows how much something like this can damage people, how even the slightest thing, wrongly worded, can damage a child forever.

There isn’t much more I can really say about this book beyond description, I found no faults with it. The narration was clear, the characters were interesting and well developed, as was the story, it wasn’t too long, or too short and there was a good pace throughout. It took a little while to get used to a baby and then young adult being called Nan, short for Nanette, but that was it. It really was a great book.

So, if you have read Our Endless Numbered Days and didn’t really like it, don’t let that put you off.

Has anyone else read this?

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