Monday, April 15, 2013
Swimming at Night - Lucy Clarke
That quote is an excellent introduction to Lucy Clarke's novel - Swimming at Night.
The opening pages introduce us to Katie - who has just received news that her younger sister Mia is dead. Mia took off six months ago to travel the world. The police say she committed suicide in Bali, but Katie cannot accept that verdict. When the police return Mia's backpack, Katie discovers Mia's travel journal inside. Impulsively, she decides to travel in Mia's footsteps, hoping to find some answers.
Clarke tells the story of these two sisters in alternating chapters. This format consistently grabs me - I always want to read just another chapter to see what happens next.
Clarke explores relationships in Swimming at Night - friends and lovers but most significantly - that of the sisters. Each sister remembers their childhood, their growing up years and their relationship as adults. Katie is the sensible, stable sister - Mia is the wild child. With every chapter, Clarke drops a few more hints as to what triggered the rift between the two.
"She hadn't told him about the terrible argument she's had with Mia. She hadn't told him of the hateful, shameful things she'd said. She hadn't told him about the anger and hurt that had been festering between them for months. She hadn't told Ed any of this because there are some currents in a relationship between sisters that are so dark and run so deep, it's better for the people swimming on the surface never to know what's beneath."
Excerpts from Mia's journal exposes even more - lies, secrets, hopes, dreams and - more clues as to what really happened to Mia.
I'm sure Clarke must have a sister - her exploration of this often complicated dynamic rings true. Both of the sister's narratives were equally compelling and well written. Certainly, I stopped more than once to consider my own relationship with my own sister. Clarke is an avid traveller herself and this showed in the lush descriptions of settings of Australia and Bali. Water is used very effectively as a metaphor for many aspects of the sister's relationship.
Definitely a recommended read - and especially for book clubs. A reading group guide is available. Read an excerpt of Swimming at Night.