Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Swimming Pool

Publisher's Summary. even summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil's wife was found murdered—and their lives changed forever. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect.

Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil's grown son, Jed, returns to the Cape with his sister for the first time in years. One day he finds a woman's bathing suit buried in a closet—a relic, unbeknownst to him, of his father's affair—and, on a hunch, confronts Marcella. When they fall into an affair of their own, their passion temporarily masks the pain of the past, but also leads to crises and revelations they never could have imagined.

In what is sure to be the debut of the season, The Swimming Pool delivers a sensuous narrative of such force and depth that you won't be able to put it down.

Review. Cape Cod in the Summer, Illicit Entanglements, Family Secrets, Murder Mystery – these are all present in The Swimming Pool, the debut novel by Holly Le Craw. And generally these are all elements of a must read summer novel. Additionally, the book is beautifully written and, with the single exceptions of the murder victim Betsy McClatchery and her son-in-law Billy, the characters are all fully developed. In short, I so wanted to love The Swimming Pool, but . . . I didn’t.

While I have no problem with a few loose ends and drawing my own conclusions at the end of the novel there were too many dangling plot threads for my taste. Without giving away any spoilers, it was never clear to me why the murder victim was ultimately killed. I also had difficulty relating to Marcella Atkinson’s affair with Jed McClatchey, the now grown son of her deceased former lover Cecil Atkinson. Although I do understand what the author wants the reader to believe – that their mutual grief brought them together – it seemed like a funny way of grieving to me. Particularly, as Marcella was significantly older than Jed I felt like she should have been more mature. Moreover, she later learns that her college daughter, Toni, who doesn’t know her mom is “dating” Jed, also has an unrequited crush on him. While I don’t need to approve of the characters’ actions to enjoy a novel I do need to relate, at some level, to their actions and for me Marcella and Jed’s affair just seemed tawdry.

There were, however, aspects of the novel I did enjoy. The post-partum depression that Callie, Jed’s sister, suffered from was very believable. According to an interview, this part of the novel was based, in part, on LeCraw’s personal experience. I also enjoyed the detailed passages depicting Cape Cod. Le Craw was able to make it come alive to me even though I have never (yet) visited the area.

In sum, while The Swimming Pool ultimately didn’t work for me it may work for other readers as there was enough to keeping me reading until the end.

Publisher: Doubleday (April 6, 2010), 320 pages.
Advance Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.


  1. I am disappointed to hear that this didn't work for you - I have it to read (probably will get to it next week) and I was hoping for good things from the book.

  2. Well-rounded review. Even tough this is not a book I would read (premise doesn't interest me) you were able to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the novel.

  3. Sorry this one did not appeal to you as much as you had hoped. I have it still to read but will try ot keep an open mind. The setting was the hook for me in the first place as we stay on the Cape every year and used to live not too far from there and I still miss it. Better luck with your next read!

  4. I've read the synopsis of this book several times and tried to decide if it appealed. What stopped me every time was the affair between Marcella and Jed. I just couldn't get past it. I think this would not be a good match for me. I appreciate your honest appraisal of the book.

  5. Sounds like a lot is going one. Too bad it didn't work all the way

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kim. I don't like books that have too too much going on in them.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, it's good to hear them! I think I'd still like to give it a try if I ever get my hands on it but I won't be buying the book specially for myself.

  8. Holly LeCraw sounds like an author to watch, even though this novel is flawed. Thanks for your honest review.

  9. Hmmm...I have a copy of this one, and while I'm still looking forward to it, I probably won't be thrilled with all the loose ends.

    Diary of an Eccentric