Swimming Lessons

by Claire Fuller

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Featured image for Swimming Lessons

I really enjoyed Bitter Orange by the same author but found The Memory of Animals to be interesting but slightly too loopy really so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time. Happily I really liked it, not as good as Bitter Orange but still a very good read. It’s a book that’s made by the characters as much as the plot. Though there is quite a lot of plot. Half of the book is a series of letters that Ingrid writes to her absent husband in the early 1990s before she goes missing leaving her two daughters behind. And the other half of the book is Ingrid’s now grown up daughter Flora dealing with her aging father.

Ingrid’s half of the story starts when she meets Gil, a much older man who is her tutor on a creative writing course and the letters narrate in detail the ups and down of the relationship between the two of them. I often felt that the letters didn’t really feel like letters, though whether the recipient was ever meant to read them is an open question in the book. There was a purpose to them being letters though and the story would perhaps not have worked quite the same if those sections had simply been narrated by the author.

The balance between the two halves of the story is pretty good, I couldn’t pick which half I liked better and flipping back and forth between Flora and Ingrid never got tiring. It didn’t feel like two separate stories that happened to go together as books like this sometimes do, the plot flowed through the two halves as we found out more about Ingrid, and the reader always knows more than Flora does. A good read all around.