- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 2460 KB
- Print Length: 304 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0241976375
- Publisher: Penguin; 01 edition (26 Jan. 2017)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01HNFSZWO
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer reviews: 254 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #42,941 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Swimming Lessons Kindle Edition
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Thrilling, transporting, delicately realised and held together by a sophisticated sense of suspense . . . more than matches the power of Fuller's debut . . . Powerful , pleasing and pleasurable
A compelling portrait of a complicated, unconventional marriage, and of flawed humanity, with all its secrets, silences and deceits. Excellent
Mail on Sunday
It's the sharp eye for detail, sometimes bizarre, that makes her writing stand out . . . A story suffused with the poignancy of miscommunication between people who love each other, of the things we can never really know
Claire Fuller has captured love in its fullest form, nursed on betrayal and regret and guilt . . . Swimming Lessons is so smoothly, beautifully written, and the human failures here are heartbreaking
Bewitching and page-turning . . . an extraordinarily smart and satisfying read
Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
With Swimming Lessons, Fuller confirms herself as a writer of emotional depth, technical skill and sensitive plotting . . . What Fuller evokes beautifully are the complicated dynamics between fathers and daughters, sisters, lovers, friends
A deeply moving read, with a mystery that keeps you turning pages
Sarah Vaughan, author of Anatomy of a Scandal
From the Inside Flap
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? --This text refers to the paperback edition.
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This inciting incident regroups the family and skeletons are unveiled, literally in the form of letters Ingrid has written to Gil but slipped between the pages of the wondrously large volume of books in their home, refashioned from an old swimming pavilion. These narrative from these letters are interspersed with Flora’s in the present and the pieces start to fit. Fuller is a consummate storyteller, milking significance from seemingly innocuous details and in an inspired literary parallel, Gil’s fascination with pre-owned books for their marginalia more than the printed text seems indicative of a larger allusion to paratexts and way the reader interacts with the story.
While the characters are finely drawn and use of narrative imaginative, I could not help but feel a little disconnected from Ingrid, who is literally absent from the text, and apathetic towards Gil, whose caddish and manipulative behaviour was nonetheless appallingly realistic. Flora, for whom my sympathy lies, and probably a result of her lack of parental care, turns out to be weak-willed, uncertain yet annoyingly stubborn all at the same time.
I loved Claire Fuller’s first book, which was gripping and highly original. This is a more conventional novel, still very good, but not quite as compelling as the first.
The highlight of the book was the excellent, clean prose, which beautifully described scenes in a way I could actually see them. An accomplished story in which fans of literary fiction will enjoy its depth and layers.
Top international reviews
Was für ein fulminanter Start: „Gil Coleman looked down from the first-floor window of the bookshop and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.“ Gil ist in einem second-hand Buchladen auf der Suche nach seinen alten Büchern und nach Briefen, die seine Frau Ingrid ihm vor ihrem Verschwinden – und mutmaßlichen Ertrinkungstod vor zwölf Jahren - geschrieben und in verschiedenen Büchern deponiert hat. Aber ist Ingrid wirklich tot? Und war es ein Badeunfall, oder ein Selbstmord? Was hat dazu geführt?
Claire Fuller wählt eine ungewöhnliche Struktur, um die Hintergründe von Ingrids Verschwinden, die Geschichte einer unglücklichen Ehe, ganz allmählich aufzudecken, indem sie Ingrid nur indirekt durch diese Briefe sprechen lässt, und mit ihr die ganze Vergangenheit ihrer Ehe mit Gil, während Gil dem Leser direkt nur als alter, kranker und offenbar auch dementer Mann begegnet.
Leider ist die ganze Geschichte letztendlich viel weniger magisch oder zumindest spannend, als die Autorin es wohl gerne gehabt hätte. Da hilft es nicht, dass Ingrid wie eine an Land gespülte Meerjungfrau erscheint, als lebensfremde Kindfrau, die Mühe hat, auf eigenen Beinen durchs Leben zun gehen. Denn ihre Geschichte mit Gil ist letztendlich ziemlich banal: junge, naive Frau heiratet den älteren Professor, den sie anhimmelt, und macht sich gänzlich abhängig von ihm. Er dreht ihr ein Kind nach dem anderen an und betrügt sie nach Strich und Faden. Und sie lässt es geschehen und kann sich nicht von ihm trennen.
Es war mir unmöglich, Empathie für die eher stereotypen Charaktere zu empfinden. Und es kann ja einfach nicht sein, dass die Autorin bewusst alle Personen so plakativ unsympathisch geschaffen hat, dass man dahinter Absicht vermuten könnte. Und auch die Struktur enttäuscht letztendlich.Was Ingrid in ihren Briefen immer nur bruchstückhaft andeutet, zeigt schließlich die Schwäche solcher „Enthülllungsromane“. Denn dieses schrittweise Aufblättern dient ja nur dazu, für den Leser eine Spannung aufzubauen, die nicht für den eigentlichen Adressaten der Briefe gedacht sein kann – der kennt die Geschichte schließlich mindestens so gut wie seine betrogene Ehefrau. Das Ergebis sind anspruchsvolle, aber leider sowohl sprachlich als auch emotional künstliche „Briefe“, aus denen kein wirkliches Leben oder Erlebtes spricht. Die Ereignisse sind außerdem für den Leser völlig vorhersehbar. Nur ein Mal ist es der Autorin gelungen, mich mit Ingrids Schicksal zu berühren, mit der Schilderung von deren dritter – und als einziger gewollter – Schwangerschaft.
Das thetralische Ende des Womanizers erschien mir ziemlich aufgesetzt.
Ach ja, es ist dies auch irgendwie ein Buch über Bücher, aber die bleiben in Gils Leben – wie letztendlich Ingrid – nur Dekor.
Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.
My Thoughts: The alternating narratives in Swimming Lessons truly captivated me. One narrator was Ingrid, wife and mother, who has written a plethora of letters to her husband Gil, whom she addresses as “you” in these missives. She is finally having a conversation with him, one which he cannot ignore or dismiss. She is venting about their troubled marriage and the ways in which her life was a disappointment. There are, however, some brighter moments in her letters…mostly about their lives before she had to give up her dreams. Her dreams of an education and her own writing career. The education which she was unable to complete because of the university’s rules regarding married/pregnant students.
Ingrid’s letters were written in 1992, just before she seemingly drowned (or disappeared). She speaks mostly of their lives in the 1970s…but also touches on the later years.
Third person narrators included Gil and Flora. We see Nan from Flora’s perspective, and I didn’t like her very much, probably because she tends to dismiss Flora’s thoughts and ideas, and treats her like a young child. Nan apparently took on the mother’s role after she was gone. Later on, we see a kinder version of her.
Gil seemed like a very selfish man, but since his present day situation shows him troubled and ill, I did feel some sympathy for him.
I loved the descriptions of the book lined rooms and hallways. Stacks of books, sometimes two or three deep, surrounded them all. The fact that Ingrid’s letters were placed in the books in a somewhat planned fashion added to the intrigue of the story.
Would Gil find the letters? Would he finally understand what his wife had been trying to say all those years? Would there be answers to their questions? What stunning events happened to bring the story to a riveting conclusion? And who is the mysterious woman who keeps showing up in Hadleigh? A 5 star read.
Ingrid and Gil are the two main characters around whom the mysteries swirl. Neither are at all likable – if you need that in a novel (I don’t). Basically it’s a mash-up of two fairly familiar plots: the first being the “disappeared mother” plot. Did Ingrid leave her husband and two daughters to live a life without them, or did she accidentally drown, or did she commit suicide?
The second plot is the “handsome older English (it’s always English, isn’t it?) Professor and writer, seduces his young student (half his age) plot.”
I enjoyed “Swimming Lessons” and was never bored by it. But “Bitter Orange” is a much better book.