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
About the Author
Claire Fuller trained as a sculptor before working in marketing for many years. In 2013 she completed an MA in Creative Writing, and wrote her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days. It was published in the UK by Penguin, in the US by Tin House, in Canada by House of Anansi and bought for translation in 15 other countries. Our Endless Numbered Days won the 2015 Desmond Elliott prize.
I was a huge fan of Our Endless Numbered Days, so I had huge expectations from this book and they were almost all achieved!
I found this to be a much darker, bleaker read as it follows the storyline of Ingrid and Gil through the present timeline, and via letters that Ingrid wrote to her husband in the past and then hid in books for him to find. And this explains why he has hundrends of books stacked up in his home. His daughters return home to care for him following an accident and ill health, and the mystery of their mothers’ disappearance still plagues the family and the story building up to that is revealed in letter form and I found this an extremely clever way of looking back.
Ingrids’ story is heartbreaking and the letters really capture the despair she was going through and how her and Gil both really seemed to not want the same things. It tells of how they get together in the first place and you often wondered what she ever saw in him!
It is a quiet, unassuming and bleak book in my opinion, that relies heavily on the family dynamics, the hope they feel and the mistrust when the daughters start to learn of the past and things weren’t all as rosy as they imagined life really was for their parents.
It was very difficult to feel any emotional connection with some of the characters as more of their traits and indiscretions were revealed and that is why I didn’t find myself loving this book as before but it was still a really thought provoking look at a dysfunctional family and how secrets always tend to find a way of revealing themselves.