I think I prefer to talk about books I dislike. At least then I would have something to say. When talking about books, I try my best to balance out the raw emotions that a piece of work brings forth, and giving the book the best objective take I can.
I feel like most of time that works out, and only a couple of reviews have I spun into a full-on rage tornado. But honestly, I’d rather do that, because my biggest problem with Swimming Lessons is that all the interesting avenues were ditched for the cliche, or at best, sub par.
Swimming Lessons is the story of Ingrid Coleman who, after writing a series of letters for her husband to find, disappears. The book switches back and forth between the present (1992) and Ingrid’s letters, as she explains her side of the story.
Ingrid and her husband, Gil, started off as Professor and student, with a twenty year age gap. The cliche that this relationship was centered around had me worried, and with good reason. Ingrid’s story is very similar to the mother’s in Everything I Never Told, and by the end I just rolled my eyes.
The present side wasn’t much better. We follow Ingrid’s adult daughter Flora as she is still trying to process her mother leaving. There were so many interesting turns that could have been taken, but I felt like Fuller always took the safe route.
I think Gil’s arc was the only aspect of this book that really landed. How everything ends for him was actually moving, if you ignored how horrible he was in the flashbacks.
In hindsight, I probably should’ve given this a lower score, but there’s a few reasons why I went with six out of ten.
Fuller, despite the wasted potential of the premise, is a great writer. I was interested in the story and the characters, and it was only afterwards when I really started to think about Swimming Lessons that I felt a bit cheated.
Despite the really cliched backstory, I really wanted to know what Ingrid had to say, and figure out what was happening to her. Did she leave her family behind or did the sea pull her in? I tore through this book, wanting to understand this character and the choices she made.
There were also some great concepts that were introduced. Like the discussion of author’s intent vs reader’s interpretation. Or the idea of ambiguous loss, which I have to give Fuller credit for landing.
I don’t think Swimming Lessons was a terrible book, just a underwhelming one. And to be honest, by the end of the year, when I review everything I read in 2017, I’ll probably have a difficult time remembering what this book was about.
**Thanks to Book of the Month for having this book available before today’s release.