Review: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Posted March 15, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 18 Comments

Review:  Swimming Lessons by Claire FullerSwimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Series: standalone
Published by Tin House Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 350
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Buy on Amazon
Rating:3 Stars

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 really wanted something different from my current reads and Swimming Lessons took care of that.

The book was written in an interesting style that I found I enjoyed.

It follows a family whose mother disappeared a couple of years ago and no one knows why. Well, the mother, Ingrid left for them clues in the form of letters scattered throughout the books in the house. So when her daughters come home due to their father’s accident, we get to find out through the letters what happened to the mother and what caused her disappearance.

It was interesting, like I have mentioned, I really enjoyed the format of the story. We got the current events in one chapter and we get to read Ingrid’s letters the next chapter and as it progressed, we kind of get the sense of what has happened.

The book in itself was okay. Nan and Flora kind of felt one dimensional because I outside of Ingrid mentioning them in the letters, we only get to see them at this specific point in time and I never felt there was much character growth. Flora felt like an absolute disaster at times and Nan was the more mature one who seemed to try hard to keep everything from falling apart. I was also very confused about how Flora has managed to cloud her memories and she remembers things differently than they really were in reality and that pisses Nan off.

The letters part, I enjoyed, for the most part. It was at times hard to read because of the situation that unfolded. I was very confused why Ingrid stayed in the situation she was in with her marriage. I also never really felt the connection between her and her husband Gil. He was twenty years her senior. Ingrid never wanted children, but apparently did not know how birth control works? She gave up so much for this man. Her life, her dreams, her education and instead did everything she hated including having children – that she never really felt any connection to.

Gil, her husband has done some really horrible things. The story was heartbreaking with the amount of stuff Ingrid had to endure, but I also felt like it was her own fault. She was warned and yet she put herself in that kind of situation. Did she deserve any of it? No, but she knew. I get that the time period it was set that she might not have been able to walk away as easily, but there was always that choice… So… I don’t know… The story felt weird at times.

Overall, it was okay. Nothing amazing. It was page turning, it was kind of a cozy read. It was a bit emotional, but I mostly really felt anger. I don’t think I projected the emotion that the author wanted from me, and that was maybe anger at Ingrids situation and pity or sorrow? I couldn’t relate. I felt she basically built her own misfortunate.

The writing was good, I don’t think I ever felt bored.

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18 responses to “Review: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

  1. Ohh I agree with you 100%. She had a choice. She could have done something, stand up for herself.
    Oh I’m curious about this book now. I want to know the ending. You make me want to give this a try! 😀
    Awesome review, as always.

  2. I saw this awhile back on a WOW and I was curious but after reading your review, I am definitely going to pass. I don’ want to feel angry when I read. Thanks for the helpful review.

  3. I love when books are told through alternating timelines! When it’s done correctly, the story seems to weave together in a gradual and revealing way. I ALSO love when books include story-telling through letters. Something about them feels super nostalgic? And like you’re getting a very personal insight to someone’s life even if they wrote them with the intention of them being read???
    I often also struggle to empathize with a character in a very difficult and bad relationship situation because it’s so frustrating to me. I’m always thinking, “why doesn’t this person just leave that awful person?”. But, in the same vein, I’ve never been in such a horrible situation, so I don’t know how I would react.
    LOVE the idea of the letters being hidden in books. Sounds like a mystery I would want to solve, but maybe also just get distracted with the books themselves lol.

  4. Sorry to hear this wasn’t as amazing as you hoped! I totally understand that feeling where you get into a book hoping it’s everything you want only to find yourself disappointed! Nonetheless, great review!

  5. This is a book that has lingered with me since I found it, so I’m so pleased you’ve given me some perspective about it. I still am curious about the letters and why she wrote them and her situation. The letters as a medium were an interesting choice I thought though.

  6. The synopsis of this one is so interesting so it’s a little disappointing to see that it kind of fell flat. I enjoy stories told (wholly or in part) through letters and I’m curious about what made Ingrid stay so long and also what made her finally leave. Great review, Lily!

  7. I can definitely see why you’d be intrigued by this one Lily, from reading the blurb I would certainly be intrigued by it too. I’m sorry to see that you had some issues with it though, I probably will end up giving this one a go. Thank you for putting this one on my radar and for your honest review 🙂

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