Friday, 3 February 2017

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

| I received my copy of Swimming Lessons via Netgalley for review purposes |

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. 

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked up Swimming Lessons... I'd read the blurb, as well as the author's debut novel, and knew this was the kind of book that piqued my interest.

Told through a duel narrative, we are welcomed into the Coleman family. The story is told through a present time narrative, and the letters Ingrid has written for her husband, Gil. After receiving news that her father has had an accident, Flora heads back home to be with him and older sister, Nan. This is where the present day narrative takes place, with the letters being from many years prior. Of the two, I adored the unfolding story in the letters, however both narratives have their place and play a part in piecing together the details of the dysfunctional Coleman family.

Whilst the family as a whole are the focus of the story, it is the marriage of Ingrid and Gil that is at the heart of the story. It is what drew me and kept me reading. The portrayal of their marriage was real and raw, and at times the letters felt too intimate for us readers to be reading. What I mean by that is that there are some things you tend to keep to yourself, and the marriage of Gil and Ingrid is laid bare, warts and all.

Through the letters I felt like we really got a sense of who Ingrid was, seeing how marriage and family life changed her. How Gil changed her. At times she felt vulnerable, at times she angered me, and overall, Ingrid felt like the most fleshed out character within this book.

The letters run up to Ingrid's disappearance, and this is a mystery that runs throughout the book. No one knows what happened to Ingrid, she just upped and left one day with no one knowing what happened to her. At the start of the book, Gil believes he has seen his wife in town, and this only fuels the mystery further.

I would recommend this book to others in general, but I do think the way in which books heavily feature in the plot draw in bookworms that little bit more. Not only does Gil have a huge (I mean HUGE) collection of books, but the letters Ingrid writes to her husband are stored in books, with the titles in which she leaves those letters associating with what she has written in the letter. It is very cleverly done.

There is a sadness, but also hope, in Swimming Lessons. I feel I read this book at a much slower pace than usual, but it needed that dedicated time to fully absorb the beauty of the story.



  1. I had never heard of his book before now. I am very intrigued. I now what to know why she left!

    1. The unravelling of why Ingrid left definitely makes the story. I'd recommend!

  2. I'm trying to take a break from adding more adult fiction to my TBR...except audio... but this does sound interesting! I like the bookish element for sure.

    1. I loved the bookish element of Swimming Lessons - a nice touch.

  3. I finished this recently and really liked it, but not quite 5 stars for me. It took me awhile to get into it. And I 100% agree with this: "letters felt too intimate for us readers to be reading"

    Glad you loved it!

    1. Whilst I really liked Swimming Lessons, like you, I didn't rate it 5 stars either - I landed on a four star rating... Despite going in thinking it could very well be my first 5 star (non reread) of the year. I enjoyed reading though. I'm glad you enjoyed this title also :-)

  4. Great review! I’m looking forward to reading this one and the author’s other book. They both sound really interesting.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Thanks! I hope you're able to enjoy Claire Fuller's writing when you do get to pick up one of her titles.


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