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!*


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