“Writing does not exist unless there is someone to read it, and each reader will take something different from a novel, from a chapter, from a line.”
-Claire Fuller, Swimming Lessons.
I recently read Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller, which I was lucky to have received a copy of from Penguin Books.
Swimming Lessons begins with famous author Gil thinking he’s spotted his wife, Ingrid, from the window. But Ingrid has been missing for 12 years and is presumed drowned. The sight causing him to have an accident, the book opens with his daughter, Flora, returning to her childhood house to aid her sister Nan in taking care of him. Flora is inclined to believe her father really did see their long lost mother, Nan is more practical and dismisses it. And then we start to see Ingrid’s side of the story. Ingrid’s story is told through a series of letters that she wrote to her husband, then stashed away in the pages of his collection of books, rather than send them. The letters unravel the events from Ingrid and Gil first meeting, to a shocking secret that has been hidden from Flora and Nan themselves.
Beautifully written and poignant, Swimming Lessons is an exploration of flaws and love, brought to life by well realised characters and a hint of intrigue that makes you want to keep reading, to discover the mystery at the heart of this book. The hardback was only 304 pages, so although the standard of writing was high, I read this book very quickly and had no problems getting into the story. I particularly liked the formatting of the book, with Ingrid’s story being narrated through her unsent letters and unfolding the truth piece by piece. The book also delved into the perception of the reader, and how books exist differently for different readers, which was interesting to think about.
I’m giving this 3.5/5 stars as although I enjoyed it, I found it a little too melancholic for my tastes. I recommend this for people who enjoy literary fiction and letters!
Has anyone else read this? What do you think?