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The Swimming Pool (2016)

by Louise Candlish

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934264,104 (3.77)2
"I can't take my eyes off the water. Can you?' It's summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele - wife, mother, teacher - it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle. Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn't know she'd been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away. But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth? Praise for The Sudden Departure of the Frasers-"… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Very well written, tense, cleverly laid out with different time frames. Flashbacks to 1985, and a narrator who is easily led and rather weak... yet the book was difficult to put down, not just when I was into it but from the prologue onwards.

Billed as a 'psychological thriller', this kept the suspense going, not in a terrifying way, but sufficient to keep me metaphorically on the edge of my seat as I tried to work out what was going on, and why.

Intended for women, suitable for older teens although some of the issues explored are quite deep and thought-provoking. Definitely recommended.

Longer review here: https://suesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2022/04/the-swimming-pool-by-louise-candlis... ( )
  SueinCyprus | Apr 27, 2022 |
Knowing the quality of this author's previous work, this novel was a let down for me. The story kept moving at a good pace, there were mysteries unfolding and there were twists that were somewhat interesting.

However, all of the characters were awful. There was not one member of the cast I liked. And there were other parts that rang false. For example, the upstairs neighbour couldn't walk her own dog as she'd had hip replacement surgery. And yet walking is something you must do as soon as possible after the surgery. And Angie's family, just hours after returning from a 2 week holiday, invite hoards of kids to sleep over at their house.

I will still look forward to Ms Candlish's next books, but I'm going to be a bit wary after this and the Second Husband disappointment. ( )
  joweirqt | Jan 15, 2021 |
Not quite believable with one dimensional characters ( )
  karenshann | Dec 31, 2019 |
Who would you become if you could be a different you?

For one heady summer, sensible school teacher Natalie takes the plunge to find out. But could the reappearance of Nasty Nat spell disaster for her real life when the sunshine fades? Louise Candlish presents Natalie’s growing desire for a more glamorous life in suspenseful prose that never lets you forget there’s a reckoning coming…

-- What’s it about? --

Usually, summer is a very structured time for Ed, Natalie and their daughter, Molly. There’s family time to be scheduled and tuition required for Molly, but this summer will be different. Ed’s attention is diverted by establishing his new role as a tutor, while Natalie is completely absorbed by the opening of the local lido and the suddenly intense friendship proffered by charming socialite Lara Channing. As she increasingly neglects her established friends and defies her husband, Natalie spends her days by the poolside and her evenings sipping cocktails in Lara’s bohemian house.

But as her intoxication rises, Natalie is aware of an earlier, teenaged, summer spent in an equally carefree manner, with shameful consequences. What might the consequences be this time? And what, exactly, does Lara want from her new friend?

Meanwhile, Molly is battling her extreme aquaphobia with success for the first time in her desire to make friends with the lovely Georgia Channing, Lara’s daughter. But can Georgia be trusted to keep Molly safe while her parents drift apart?

-- What’s it like? --

Compulsively gripping. Dripping with tension. Puzzling.

Throughout the book, Candlish maintains one view point (until the final chapter) but alternates between three time frames: the morning after a significant party; the weeks and events preceding the party; and Natalie’s original summer of sin. This is a very effective strategy which encourages us to view Natalie’s developing friendship with Lara in light of her previous friendship with Mean Mel. (Though it seems Natalie has learned very little about herself from that episode!) Just when you think all three time lines have reached their dramatic peak, there’s a final frightening development that keeps the tension high for the final few conversations bewtween the main characters.

The prologue is startling and will have readers puzzled throughout by the focus on him when the novel’s focus is all on her. When the final pages are in place there’s a disappointing reveal about that prologue, but it doesn’t negate the powerful opening. If anything, it encouraged me to reread it and imagine it all slightly differently, from another perspective.

That, I think, is what I like best about Louise Candlish’s writing: she waits until the last few pages to make you shift your focus and view the events of the last few hundred pages in a subtly but shockingly different way, and she does this without ever undermining what went before. Instead, you are left with multiple possiblities and interpretations. Did he…? Did she…? This is true psychological exploration and far more potent than a simple reveal where one or more characters tells you *precisely* what they were thinking (I’m thinking of Sophie Hannah’s lengthy explanations of all the mental processes her key characters have undergone). The joy here is in the not knowing, the speculation, the possibilities.

-- Final thoughts --

Candlish’s focus on drowning may be off-putting to some readers, but the aquaphobia storyline is interesting, as is the fixation on Natalie’s teenage guilt. Natalie’s obsession with Lara is convincing, as is her recklessness, but her final comments on her friend’s husband seemed rather like a lecture than a set of reflections. (Perhaps that is quite fitting for a usually rather staid teacher!) Ultimately, Natalie is her own worst enemy and I was pleased she could unpeel (most) of her misunderstandings at the end. There might be hope for her yet.

An atmospheric read with a quietly charged ending.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Apr 23, 2016 |
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"I can't take my eyes off the water. Can you?' It's summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele - wife, mother, teacher - it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle. Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn't know she'd been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away. But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth? Praise for The Sudden Departure of the Frasers-"

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