Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Vague Plot: Mother (Ingrid) disappeared years ago. She was assumed drowned, but it is uncertain. She leaves behind her husband (Gil) and two daughters (Flora and Nan). Half of the book is discussing current times – father’s health is on the downswing and has just experienced an accident and Flora comes home to help Nan take care of him (along with Flora’s boyfriend Richard). The other half of the book is letters written by Ingrid that give us additional insight into the marriage and life up to the time of Ingrid’s disappearance. (FYI, the letters by Ingrid are my favorite part of the book! I kept wanting to get through the current day chapters to get to the letters!)
To me, this book dripped with sadness – a book about a turbulent marriage with its numerous ups and downs (with way more downs than ups). First, I found the book to be written beautifully and I loved the way the chapters alternated from present day discussions of what was currently going on in the life of father Gil and daughters Nan and Flora vs. chapters that were letters written by mother Ingrid over the years that gave the reader past information about the marriage and family dynamics.
This book definitely pulled at the heart strings and elicited emotions – rarely was this emotion a positive one. I became tearful on numerous occasions thinking of Ingrid and the life she was in…I rooted for her to leave on so many occasions (Jonathan!!!), but it never did go as I had hoped. Besides the sadness felt for the life of Ingrid, I also felt a lot of anger towards Gil. Why pull a woman into marriage if you don’t plan on being faithful in that marriage? I think this book often leads you to wonder “What If” – What if she had never met Gil? What kind of life would she have had? Would she have been the educated, traveling woman that she had hoped to be? Would she have been happy?
The book leaves you wondering until the end…what happened to Ingrid? In the end, I hope she was able to experience the happiness that she was so often denied.