Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m going to be posting my review of Louise Candlish’s latest novel, ‘The Swimming Pool’. This was a fantastic read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Keep reading to find out my thoughts…
‘The Swimming Pool’ is an exceptional Psychological Thriller. It was released in May 2016, and is Louise Candlish’s latest novel. She has written eleven novels, but is best known for ‘The Sudden Departure Of The Frasers’ (released in 2015) and ‘The Swimming Pool’. ‘The Swimming Pool’ has been a massive hit and has achieved brilliant reviews, and it’s clear to see why.
Fabulous Magazine called it “a clever, claustrophobic thriller”; Daily Mail said it was “absorbing, perceptive and gripping”; and Good Housekeeping pinned it “tense, twisty and completely addictive”. Many other authors also loved it: Clare Mackintosh said “exquisitely written and addictively dark – sheer perfection”, Tammy Cohen said “as languidly seductive as summer itself, this is a tense, unsettling tale about the secrets and lies submerged beneath the smooth surface of a leafy London neighbourhood lido”, and Rosamund Lupton called Candlish “a master of her craft”.
As you can probably guess by the title, ‘The Swimming Pool’ is a Psychological Thriller set in a newly-opened swimming pool (opened by the rich Lara Channing). This is what immediately drew me to this book – how often are thrillers set in swimming pools?! The narrative essentially follows Natalie Steele, her husband Ed and her daughter Molly, who become friends with the Channing family during the school holidays (Natalie and Ed are both teachers). And of course, the Channings are not all they’re cracked up to be, and things go horrifically wrong at the swimming pool.
The story is narrated by Natalie Steele. Natalie loves her family and would do anything for them, but when she is befriended by Lara Channing, she gets a bit too carried away. I love the fact that the novel is narrated by Natalie, as the reader is able to really get inside her mind – and she is definitely not the simple wife and mother you may first think she is. Natalie has a dark past that she has buried deep inside, but very gradually, all her secrets are revealed, and she is given the ultimate test.
As a character, Natalie definitely frustrated me at times, but I assume this was Candlish’s intention. She becomes drawn to Lara and something about Lara intrigues her, and she becomes obsessed with meeting up with the Channings and pleasing them. As a reader, it’s clear to see that something is not quite right about Lara, and things are about to go drastically wrong. But Natalie is unable to see this, and she turns into somebody she is not, often neglecting her own family for the Channings.
Ed Steele fulfils the typical masculine family role. He wants to protect his family, and he is able to see that the Channings are not necessarily good news – which his wife is unable to see. He gradually becomes less and less keen to spend time with the other family, and tries to deter his wife away, but of course this causes lots of problems and he is forced to give an ultimatum.
Molly Steele is an extremely interesting character. She’s a teenage girl who suffers with aquaphobia, and refuses to go anywhere near any water since a young childhood incident. Therefore, she physically cannot swim. I thought this was such a clever detail; to set large parts of the novel in such a potentially dangerous setting for Molly. This adds greatly to the suspense and mystery of the novel. Molly begins to see a new specialist and works on her phobia, making great progress. But will she ever be cured?
The novel starts pretty slowly, focusing on the newly-formed relationship between the Channings and the Steeles. Natalie and Lara become inseparable, and Molly also becomes very close to their daughter Georgia. Natalie and Lara spend a lot of time together swimming at the new pool, as well as visiting each other’s homes. But gradually, tension is built and it is clear that the swimming pool isn’t such a comforting, fun setting after all…
I loved the switches in time in the novel. We have present day (31st August 2015 – the night of the action), the days leading up to it (as far back as ten weeks earlier) and glimpses into Natalie’s childhood in 1985. The novel begins with loads of suspense surrounding “that night”, as we are only given very small details about what happens. Over time, gradually more and more is revealed and the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together. I really enjoyed the references back to 1985, in which Natalie narrates her childhood antics with her old friend Mel, specifically leading up to a life-changing event.
Candlish’s writing is hypnotic and dark, and I was absolutely absorbed in the world of ‘The Swimming Pool’. I read this is only two days – and given that this is 460 pages long, I think that’s pretty impressive. I was obsessed with this novel and physically couldn’t put it down, and I was just dying to keep reading and find out what happened that night!
That ending! The ending is absolutely incredible, and I remember just thinking “Wow”! The tension reaches it’s shocking peak, and what happened completely blew my mind. There’s such a big twist which I certainly never saw that coming. The entire final scene is just amazing, and I was completely in awe of the writing. It was truly unpredictable and astonishing, and it’s one of the best endings to a thriller that I’ve ever read!
Overall, this novel is perfect for any fans of Psychological Thrillers. The setting of the swimming pool is so unique and brings so much to the novel, and Candlish’s writing is incredible. It had all the ingredients for a perfect Psychological Thriller – tension, brilliant characters, and a shocking twist. My ONLY criticism would be that it started off a bit slower than I would have liked, and it is a long book which I feel could have been shortened. But I absolutely loved this and it was a great read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll definitely have to check out ‘The Sudden Departure Of The Frasers’ now!
Happy reading 🙂