Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

The Swimming PoolI’m the kind of person that gets excited about certain things because of the buzz created around them. I all of a sudden find myself wanting the book that everyone else seems to be talking about. Then I get the book, I read it, and wonder afterwards what to write because I am not so crazy about it as others were. I think you know where I’m going with it. It did unfortunately happen to me and The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw.

Enter the lives of the McClatcheys’ and the Atkinsons’. Marcella Atkinson, a beautiful woman in her prime, lives alone in Connecticut, away from her daughter Toni and ex-husband, Anthony.  The affair Marcella had with Cecil McClatchey seven years ago led to her divorce and a lonely life she now leads. That however is not the worst that happened since the affair. Cecil was married with two children when he ended his relationship with Marcella. The same night he ends the affair, he also loses his wife who gets murdered in a senseless robbery.  Cecil passes away months later leaving his children Jed and Callie to fend for themselves and always living with that shadow of doubt, that their father murdered their mother. Now, years later things will get rehashed again with new twists and final answers when Jed and Callie move back to Cape Cod’s house of their childhood and Marcella’s daughter is hired as a baby sitter to Callie’s children.

When I write that I wasn’t crazy about The Swimming Pool, I didn’t mean that I disliked it altogether. There were parts about it that were enjoyable and there definitely is great promise in LeCraw’s writing for future novels. The Swimming Pool is her debut and for a debut, it’s  interesting enough. The prose is catching and propels a reader forward, even if not much new is happening. I did find myself almost entangled with the lives of all characters, but especially with Callie. She suffers from depression (whether it’s postpartum or simply an episode of a lingering one from the death of her parents is unclear to me) and the way the author writes about it is very convincing, almost as if she herself went through it or had had experience with it. I truly felt for Callie and think that despite her character being a secondary one to the whole story, she somehow stood out the most tome. But other characters weren’t lacking much either. It’s almost as if there really were no secondary ones but rather every one of them mattered and was a part of cumulative little society dealing with secrets, lies and tragedy.  This part of The Swimming Pool I liked and appreciated.

Overall however, the book didn’t have an impact on me I was hoping it would. The thing that bothered me the most was Cecil’s narrative. How in the world did he find his way in there I have no idea, since he has been dead for seven years. It’s technically wrong to include his narrative with those of the living characters, it jarred on my nerves and because of it I couldn’t fully concentrate on the good points in the book. Also, when it all was said and done, I turned the last page and felt that it all was a little too cliché for my tastes.  The laziness of Cape Cod summers, the affair of a bored and unfulfilled wife with a man who in the end couldn’t even tell why he had the affair at all, mother and daughter interested in the same man. I don’t know, it’s probably just me but the whole novel seemed inconsequential to me in the end.  I can see, though, Holly LeCraw getting fans thanks to this book. If you like the nice literary prose coupled with accurate characterization and are willing to overlook the things that I mentioned (or they simply don’t bother you at all) then you should give The Swimming Pool a ‘go‘.

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I received an ARC copy of The Swimming Pool from Doubleday publisher via Shelf Awareness