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The Swimming Pool
by Holly LeCraw
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385531931, Hardcover)Holly LeCraw on The Swimming Pool
I’m a Southerner born and bred, and I grew up going to the beach for a couple of weeks every year in South Carolina, where the water is as warm as your bath, the pace is slow, and the fake-bamboo furniture is comfortable. Then, after a move to Boston that still baffles even me, I met my husband, who summered. (In all fairness, his family would be loath to use that word; nevertheless, when you decamp to the coast for the entire summer, every summer, that’s summering.) Moreover, they summered on Cape Cod, in a very old house built to withstand howling winter winds (small windows, fireplaces, and low ceilings), and where the decor was not, um, tropical. The water was often freezing. The air was often freezing. In August.
As I’ve begun talking to people about my debut novel, The Swimming Pool, I’ve noticed that one of the most popular questions people ask is “Where did you get the idea for your book?” and that, often, what they are really asking is, “Is it autobiographical?” It’s hard to believe that writers make up stories out of thin air, and for good reason: they don’t. Somewhere, in every book, there are elements hidden of the writer, of the writer’s family, the writer’s history and experience. The best description I have heard is “refracted autobiography”--emphasis on refracted. For instance, The Swimming Pool is the story of a young man, Jed McClatchey, who is mired in grief for his parents, who died seven years previously--his mother in a still-unsolved break-in/murder. Jed falls in love and begins an affair with an older woman, Marcella Atkinson, who he then learns was his late father’s mistress; as one might imagine, complications and revelations ensue.
Now. I am happily married. My parents are both alive. I don’t know anyone who was murdered. I am not Italian (Marcella is). I don’t know any cougars personally. It is all made up.
Except for the fact that this book is set on Cape Cod, and Marcella, an expatriate from a warm and sunny clime, is mystified by it. And except that Jed, who just happens to be a Southerner, has grown up summering there. Which is not usual for a boy from Atlanta. One might say that I have split myself between my two protagonists: I have the woman who feels like a constant outsider; I have the man who loves being somewhere different, who knows how different it is from his birthplace and yet who gets it. Because I think I finally get the Cape, after twenty-something years. Or maybe I just get it enough to fake it. I can still stand a bit outside. I can see it clearly, in a way that it is sometimes hard for me to see the places where I grew up.
It is the quintessential stance of the writer: you’ve got to blend in. You’ve got to pass. You’ve got to get people to forget that you’re watching, hard. And, really, they shouldn’t be nervous; the things writers notice, or that I notice, anyway, are not the things one might expect. In this case, there was a story I heard long ago about a family I barely knew, where the middle--aged husband left his high-school-sweetheart wife--a sad, but garden-variety, occurrence. For some reason, it stuck in my head. And then it combined with the feel of the sun beating down on a clay tennis court in the woods (a court I decidedly watched from the outside; I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a tennis ball), with the cast-in-amber interior of a beloved old Yankee house, and with the sort of crime one might read about in the newspaper and then promptly forget. My own experience with postpartum depression was given to a secondary character, and intensified. My one trip ever to the Connecticut coast yielded a place for Marcella’s escape. And on and on.
Where did I get the idea for the book? I have no idea. Is it autobiographical? Of course not. Of course.
As it happens, I still get to go to South Carolina occasionally, often in August, when I can sweat to my heart’s content. As it also happens, I wrote much of the book on the Cape. I belong to both places, and to neither. As a writer, it’s better that way. --Holly LeCraw
(Photo © Marion Ettlinger)
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:32 -0400)
Seven years after the end of an affair with a married man culminated in the unsolved murder of his wife, Marcella Atkinson struggles with the decimation of her own family life before a chance discovery leads her into a relationship with her former lover's son.
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