Sunday, April 18, 2010

BOOK: The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw, 307 pages

review book from Randomhouse Canada

What are the ripple effects of a secret passion? Of a parent's devotion? Of a single, tortured mistake? (from the inside cover)

Expectations going into a book can have an effect on the reading experience. When a book has great hype and raving reviews, reading it can feel like a let-down, if only because it was supposed to be 'that good' as Wendy found that this week. I feel nervous sometimes giving a rave review for a book because I don't want to raise expectations too high. The Swimming Pool was a good book, just not the book I thought I was going to read, based on the plot summary I had read. This is certainly not the author's fault, so I have to consider this when writing my review.

What did the book sound like it would be?
Because there was mention of a murder years before after the end of an affair, I thought the book would be more suspenseful, like a mystery. The unwinding of the mystery was not as much of a focus as the relationships between the characters, and I felt let down. I kept waiting for more suspense, more mystery and it never appeared.

What was the book actually about?
The affair from seven years previous was a pivotal point, but the novel focused on the relationships between the two entwined families - brother/sister, mother/daughter, mother/infants, ex-spouses, and then some new entanglements that really change some other relationships. My feeling after reading the book, was that this felt like the novel to explain what might have happened years after The Bridges of Madison County. (For readers unfamiliar with the book or movie, a stranger has an affair with a married woman, an Italian immigrant, who felt dissatisfied with the way her life had turned out.) The affair in The Swimming Pool wasn't like that, but the Italian wife feeling out of sorts with the way her life turned out was similar.

Most of the book takes place in the present, with some flashbacks. This is a real ensemble book, with no one character really as a main character. Because of this, there are many other issues happening with all the characters, including a post-partum story, new secret affairs, guilt, and discovering about the murder. With all these plots, it is still a quiet sort of story, with the characters doing lots of introspection and navel-gazing. I think it was well written, with interesting characters and room for discussion about some of their questionable actions, but I wish I hadn't expected a dramatic, suspenseful read.

For some decidedly different opinions, also reviewed by:
amy at myfriendamy
rhapsody in books
dawn at sheistoofondofbooks