Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Review: The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

I had previously read and enjoyed Lousie Candlish's previous novel The Sudden Departure of the Frasers. So when Lovereading offered up review copies of her lastest novel The Swimming Pool I jumped at the chance. The day it arrived, if you'll pardon the pun, I dived right in.

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 The swimming pool: a perfect stage. In the heady swelter of a London summer, the Elm Hill lido opens. For teacher Natalie Steele, the school holiday typically means weeks of carefully planned activities with her husband Ed and their daughter Molly. But not this year. Despite Molly's extreme phobia of the water, Natalie is drawn to the lido and its dazzling social scene, led by the glamorous Lara Channing. Soon Natalie is spending long, intoxicating days with Lara at the pool - and intimate evenings at her home. Natalie's real life begins to feel very far away. But is the new friendship everything it seems? Why is Natalie haunted by memories from another summer years ago? And, without realising, has she been swept dangerously out of her depth?

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When a book keeps you up until 2.30am you know it's a good'un. Once I really got into this I couldn't put it down. The whole novel has a seductive atomsphere that draws the reader in as much as Natalie is drawn to Lara. As the summer wears on towards its inevitable end, so does the story - and the tension really ramps up as the novel nears its conclusion. There are a lot of time jumps in this novel, from the present day, to the recent past, to Natalie's youth, and there's even a flashforward at the end. Personally I found that this approach worked really well and I easily kept track of what was happening. Throughout the course of the novel we are drip fed information within each of the timeframes, until we eventually begin to see the bigger picture - although I certainly didn't see the big twist(s) coming. I didn't actually like any of the characters - I think that's maybe the point - and a lot of the time I wasn't sure who's side I was supposed to be on. Just as you think you have events - or characters - sussed along comes another twist that completely changes your perspective, and I was kept guessing right up until the last few pages.

The epilogue, which was brilliantly done, serves not only to highlight how different viewpoints of the same events can be, but also brings home the fact that the centre of the novel is the relationship between teenagers and their parents, and how the need to be popular and liked is something that we never really grow out of. The whole story was very cleverly plotted and put together, and made for compelling reading. 4/5 stars.

*Thanks to LoveReading who sent me an advance-read copy of this book in exchange for a review!*

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Review: The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

I was looking through my review notebook (which in reality is an old notepad full of jumbled ideas and half-asleep handwriting), and found a handful of short reviews, some of which are only a few sentences, that have yet to see the light of day. Life has been getting in the way of blogging lately for me, so writing up these  thoughts on a few books seems like a good way to get back into the swing of things.

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My name is Amber Fraser. I've just moved in at Number 40, Lime Park Road. You'll come to think of me as a loving wife, a thoughtful neighbour and a trusted friend.

This is a lie.

When Christy and Joe Davenport are handed the keys to Number 40 on picture-perfect Lime Park Road, Christy knows it should be a dream come true. How strange though that the house was on the market for such a low price. That the previous owners, the Frasers, had renovated the entire property yet moved out within a year. That none of the neighbours will talk to Christy.

As her curiosity begins to give way to obsession, Christy finds herself drawn deeper into the mystery of the house's previous occupants - and the dark and shocking secret
that tore the street apart . . .

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I had been wanting to read this for ages, and while it didn't quite live up to expectation I still enjoyed it. I found the parts of the story told from Amber's perspective much more engaging than Christy's - most likely because they are written in the first person. As Christy becomes increasingly frustrated about not knowing what happened to Amber I was beginning to feel the same - right up until the truth was revealed I wasn't even sure myself! It's not exactly suspense packed but it contains enough of a hook to keep you reading - even if I didn't actually like any of the characters (although I suspect this is intentional). What I do love is Louise Candlish's writing style - she excels at drawing the reader in and keeping them guessing righ until the very end.

3/5 stars: The dark side of suburbia.