'I can't take my eyes off the water. Can you?'
It's summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele - wife, mother, teacher - it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.
Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socializing with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn't know she'd been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away.
But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?
This book got right under my skin. The main character, Natalie, is enticed into a friendship with the beautiful Lara and all her glamorous lifestyle has to offer.
Bored, fed up with her husband's straight-laced predictable attitudes, her life has up to now been consumer by daughter Molly's severe phobia of water, to a point where Natalie knows that she is herself drowning her daughter with her own guilt.
Seduced by the hedonistic lifestyle of the rich and beautiful Channings, she finds herself becoming more distanced from her husband Ed and best friend Gayle, who are both disapproving of Natalie's new friends. Natalie is a perfect example of a woman in the grip of a midlife crisis, rebelling against those she loves for the promise of something new and exciting. Nat may appear selfish and needy but she is leaping at a chance to help her daughter where previous attempts have failed.
Lara's daughter Georgia is a replica of her mother, but ironically Ed cannot see this, he is swayed in his own way to see Georgia as a perfect role model for Molly.
My experience of reading The Swimming Pool was like being submerged in the water. I was totally immersed in the story with its beautiful, vivid descriptions. It is an almost surreal experience, a story of toxic friendships, manipulation and guilt, filled with dramatic tension. The story is cleverly written, told from various points in time; after a terrible accident; the weeks leading up to it; and glimpses into a shameful secret in Natalie's childhood.
A truly mesmerising read.