Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Swimming Pool - Holly LeCraw

Cape Cod is the setting for Holly LeCraw's debut novel, The Swimming Pool.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Anthony Atkinson. He has called his ex-wife Marcella to let her know that their daughter, Toni, has taken a summer job babysitting for Callie McClatchey. Callie's brother Jed will be at the cottage as well. When Jed finds a bathing suit at the cottage that he remembers Marcella wearing at one of his parent's parties, he inexplicably seeks her out. The past and the present collide as Jed and Marcella begin an affair. Marcella's affair with Jed's father Cecil was the reason for her divorce. Cecil's wife Betsy was murdered on the night that he ended the affair. The past is slowly and tantalizingly revealed to us through the memories of Marcella, Callie and Jed. The present is inevitably affected by secrets, recriminations and confessions revealed.

Although the mystery of Betsy's unsolved murder is the strongest plot line, it is the interactions of the characters, their feelings, needs and fears that are the real story. LeCraw has an incredibly deft hand with description. The affairs of Marcella are described in sensual terms and never denigrate into tawdriness. However, I just never really warmed up to Marcella. I found her to be a weak woman, and somewhat pitiable, despite her magnetic attraction for men. She seemed to adapt herself to what the men in her life needed. Her acceptance of an criminal act perpetrated by her husband really galled me.

LeCraw has done a superb job in drawing her characters and provoking a reaction from this reader. I honestly didn't like most of them. Callie's storyline was the one that had me holding my breath. A new mother for the second time, she is suffering from undiagnosed severe post partum depression. Her thoughts on harming her newborn are truly frightening.

The Swimming Pool is definitely not plot driven, despite the description given at the beginning of this review, and the mystery surrounding Betsy's death is easily answered midway. What stands out are the prose - they really are beautiful. I found myself rereading many passages just to savour the words. A strong debut from a talented new author.

Read an excerpt of The Swimming Pool.

And you've got till Sun. May 23rd at 6 pm EST to enter to win one of two copies of The Swimming Pool.


bermudaonion said...

That sounds like an amazing book!

Connie said...

Whenever I read a review of this book I am struck by how multi-layered and subtle it sounds.

Great review!

Patti V. said...

This sounds really good.

Amy said...

I finished reading this book about a week ago & I just wanted to say that I think your review is wonderful! I will be reviewing The Swimming Pool soon and hope to do half as good a job as you. This was definitely a different kind of book, not plot driven, as you said, and I liked that. Holly LeCraw's writing is beautiful and really transforms the book.
Glad you enjoyed it!

~ Amy

Anna said...

Without too much of a plot, I'm glad to hear the writing is really good. This one is on my shelf, and I hope to get to it soon.

Diary of an Eccentric