A melancholy story of a broken family told in fantastic prose. 3/5 stars.
Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for giving me a copy of the book.
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.
Firstly, and because cover designers often don’t get enough credit for their work, I’d like to say that whoever designed the book cover deserves heaps of praise. It’s beautiful.
Back to the contents…
As with Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons showcases Claire Fuller’s wonderful descriptive prose. Every landscape, location (the Swimming Pavillion is a brilliant idea for a setting) and mood is captured evocatively, pulling the reader into and along with the story.
A compelling study of what the mind and body will do to survive. 3.5/5 stars.
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review.
The blurb (click on the cover image above to go to the book’s Goodreads page):
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. And so her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.
Peggy is not seen again for another nine years.
1985: Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why has she come back now?
This review will be spoiler-free.
As you can see from the blurb, the story of Our Endless Numbered Days switches between scenes pre-1985 (which cover Peggy’s early childhood, her trip to the forest and time there) and late 1985 when she is back in her family home in London. The main advantage of this time hopping: I was never concerned that the main character and first-person narrator would die during the harder moments of her time in the woods (and there are some incredibly difficult moments). This meant I could relax and give my undivided attention to the descriptions of Peggy’s experiences. And these descriptions are fantastic. The narrative voice is compelling, even though it’s slightly detached and numb, which you would expect from someone who had survived what she has. Most of the time you feel right there in the forest with her. The experience is so immersive that being transported back to 1985 London is at times an irritating jolt and at others a blessed relief.
A quick note and apology. My internet access will be a bit variable over the next few days. I will visit all your posts; but I might get there a little late.
This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.