I received a free copy of “The Night Swimmer” by Matt Bondurant this Christmas, promising in return to write a book review about it. Didn’t realize how hectic life would be here in January – but well, managed to read it eventually, quite not-stop even, because it turned out to be good!
And now I’ll try to do this other thing :-)
The story is about an American couple who win a pub in southern Ireland (Now where do I sign up for a competition like that?). They are pretty well settled in the US, but decide to skip their comfortable, maybe dull life for this Irish adventure, and the story is then about the hardship that they meet in a small and closed community.
It is an intriguing story, about this couple and the close-knitted community that they choose to try their luck with. ‘Out where the crows turn’ as the Danish saying goes, and maybe even past that. He spends most of his time getting this pub up and running in Baltimore on the mainland, while she visits the nearby Cape Clear island, where they got free lodging for months as part of the pub-win (again, WTF?).
She is a former competitive swimmer, now eager open water swimmer, with a special skin condition that makes her not feel the cold as much as the rest of us. So she turns to swimming in the Ineer, an hourglass-shaped harbor on the south side of the Island. And dreams of this big swim, out to the Fastnet Rock lighthouse, 4 miles southwest of the Cape Clear island, which is the most southerly point of Ireland.
A lot of other stuff gets woven into the story – they have issues, there is hostility from part of the community, friendship from others, she notices some mysterious being on the island, and there are local stories and flashbacks to process too. I don’t like when people give away a story, and will therefore try to not do it myself, but the story just gets more and more intriguing and suspenseful, right up until the end.
Now, I have a few issues with the story also, as a swimming aficionado and member of a small and by nature close-knitted community. Please apologize me if I ruin part of the story for you, but I don’t like that she swims so much on her own, and I don’t get it why anyone would put them in the position that they end up in, by letting them win that pub.
I know, it might just be how these particular people are in this story, but it bugged me for instance that a hard tried sailor at one point warns her about a certain stretch of the ocean, and then still goes along with letting her swim. I don’t know how rough the Irish sea is, compared to what we have here in the Faroe Islands, but at times it is described so daunting that I know that a Faroese person would say “No, I will not let you kill yourself!”. And that would be the end of it.
The thing is, that they are from a small community, and therefore cannot just let someone kill themselves under their supervision. Maybe most of all because it would then most certainly fall back on themselves, never to be forgotten. And if they were to go along, they would be acutely observant of whatever happened to the swimmer in the water, that nothing would happen. The same with that idea of locals giving a couple of Americans a pub in a community where anyone who hasn’t lived there for 20 years is called a ‘blow-in’.
Sorry, I’m now probably ruining part of the story for you, so let me just assure everyone that the main plot more than counters whatever an old and boring, always lifeguard-thinking person like me dislikes in certain character details. It might for all I know be totally deliberate by the author to give away that ‘hey, that sailor wasn’t that much of a sailor anyhoo’. And that she decides to swim alone, because she’s somehow out of the reign of the book decided that ‘Hey, if I die, I die!’.
There you have it, my first attempt with book criticism. If you want to read more, there is a list of book reviews here below, that I stumbled across while delaying working on my own review. I’ve saved them but deliberately read none of them yet, in order to not get really confused. There is even an interview with the author on SQAQ, not read because of reasons mentioned.
(By the way, don’t search for ‘The Night Swimmer’ images. You’ll get something completely different)
- BookPeople’s Blog
- Kirkus Reviews
- His Futile Preoccupations …
- A.V. Club