While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green

Hi guys, and welcome to my stop on Linda Green’s fabulous Blog Tour! Today I am posting not only my review of the fantastic and gripping „While My eyes Were Closed” but you are also for a real treat, as there is also an excerpt from the book! And scroll down for more info about the blog tour itself!

 

While My Eyes Were Closed

by Linda Green

 

 

Publisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 5th May 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Psychological Drama

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A nail-biting psychological drama for fans of Paula Daly, Daughter and The Girl with No Past.

One, two, three . . . Lisa Dale shuts her eyes and counts to one hundred during a game of hide-and-seek. When she opens them, her four-year-old daughter Ella is gone. Disappeared without a trace. The police, the media and Lisa’s family all think they know who snatched Ella. But what if the person who took her isn’t a stranger? What if they are convinced they are doing the right thing? And what if Lisa’s little girl is in danger of disappearing forever?

 Rating: 4/5

 

I’ve read some Linda Green’s books in the past and enjoyed them, and I know that when I’m in a need of a solid, realistic family – centred story I can easily reach for her novels. This time, however, even though the story is also centred around a family, the genre of this book is different to this that I have come to expect – namely, „While My Eyes Were Closed” is being advertised as a mystery/psychological thriller. But, as from time to time I really like to read something on the heavier side, I thought, why not, and happily agreed to read this book for review purposes and be a part of the blog tour. And am I happy that I came across this book!

Even though topic of this book is not an easy one, thanks to the light and forthcoming writing style I found myself flying through the pages. What was also so exceptional was the fact that the author could so brilliantly write the distinctive voices of the narrators, no matter if it was the shocked Lisa, the little Ella or Margot. She could incredibly well got into the heads of her characters and describe all their feelings. The chapters with the little Ella were the worst for me, I think, I am a very sensible person and I can easily imagine what other people feel, and seeing how this little girl missed her family, seeing her cry and not understand what’s happening, it was heart – breaking.

Yes, we did have the advantage, we knew that Ella’s good (whatever good means), unlike to her family, though at the end I wasn’t sure how this book is going to finish, but nevertheless, it is a story about every parents’ biggest nightmare: not knowing where your child is and what’s happening to them. When you child is dead, it’s tragic, but you know that nothing else can happen to them, but not knowing when they are… I think it is the worst feeling in the world, this helplessness, not knowing, the feeling that you can’t help… I simply can’t imagine it.

This novel is told alternatively by Lisa and Margot mostly, and slowly we start to learn what was the reason of taking Ella, and slowly all the loose ends start to wrap up. I started to suspect rather quickly what happened in the past, but it didn’t spoil the story to me, and actually the bottom line took me a little by surprise because I wasn’t able to guess everything. What I also liked was that the author left the end open, let us write our own ending.

I had some mixed feelings about Lisa and, to be honest, I wasn’t so sure about her at the beginning. She just seemed so cold and not at all bothered but maybe it was only a mask, maybe she just protected herself this way, although I still think that she didn’t react according to the situation. Though, on the other hand, how should one react in such situation? Howl? Shout? Be depressed? Or maybe I am just like the press, judging her?
But the author has in a fantastic way described how the whole family experienced this situation and how all and each of them were trying to cope with it – though mostly they didn’t cope at all, especially Lisa’s dad. She has also excellently portrayed Ella’s abductor, with her changing moods.

This is more character driven than action story, as the pace is not shockingly quick, but it’s fast enough and I enjoyed every single word in this story. Thanks to this average pace we can see how the grief affects Lisa and her family, and it was sometimes heart – breaking to see people so broken, people who didn’t know what’s happening to their little girl.

The story not only explores maternal love in many different ways but it also shows how quick we are to jump to conclusions, especially with the „help” of social media, and how quick we are to judge on appearances. It is also rather unusual to so very quickly learn who the kidnapper was but it was necessary this time and we quickly learn what urged them to go as far as kidnapping the child. You could say that with knowing from the very beginning what happened and to whom the tension in the book may be missing, but it was there, because we really didn’t know how this book is going to end, what’s going to happen and if Ella will come back home to her frantic looking for her family. The tension comes from the kidnapper and the situation Ella is found in, but also from Ella’s family, as it quickly becomes clear that not everything is as good within it. But I’d love to hear more about Lisa and her husband’s background, as we were given small hints that there is something between them – I mean, they do love each other but I had a feeling there is no trust between them, that Lisa was distancing herself a little and I didn’t find why it’s like this. I also had a feeling that some issues were started and never mentioned again, and I was missing the explanation of this strained situation between Lisa and Chloe – what really happened? Was this really the fact that Chloe didn’t feel supported by her mother? Was this the typical teenager/mum clash?

What I also liked is that the book presents a slightly different take on missing child novels that are lately popping up like mushrooms and concentrates more on the grieving process, on the fallout of the family, on the why rather than on continuously asking who did it. It shows how Ella’s mum tries to cope with the guilt that her daughter went missing when she „was on duty”, but it also very gentle deals with Muriel’s mental health problem, because I do think there was a mental health problem, as she was trying to turn Ella into someone she wasn’t. And when we are at Muriel – probably because I empathised more with Lisa, I’ve never felt a bit of sympathy to the abductor, even though the author gave them a chance to explain themselves through the chapters from their point of view. Yes, I understood where they were coming from but there was not a single moment that I sympathised with them.

It was a psychological thriller with a soul and feelings – the feelings that the author has made so visible, so palpable. Hats off to Linda Green for the way she has written this book, where she presented all points of view and gave all the characters a chance to tell their story without judging them. It is a really gripping read that keeps you turning page after page and I desperately wanted to know how it’s going to end (I had a little problem here. My review copy ended on page 374, in mid sentence, missing almost three chapters but fortunately the publisher met the challenge and I could read the book to the end. I would die not knowing the end! Thank you, Quercus!!!). It is a very cleverly plotted book and the there were many questions that were coming to my mind but the story didn’t dragged and all the questions were answered in just the right time, so that the book kept my instant interest and I desperately wanted to know what’s going to happen. Really great, high – end read, and it comes highly recommended from me.

 

EXCERPT:

MURIEL

The house reeks of emptiness. It does so all the time but

I notice it particularly in the mornings. Not that it was

ever a noisy house. Not like some of those chaotic places

you see in documentaries about people on benefits on

the television. But there was always some low-level noise

in the mornings. A workman-like hum as Malcolm and

Matthew went about their morning ablutions and got

ready for the day ahead.

I didn’t really notice it at the time. It is one of those

things you only miss when it has gone. There are rather

a lot of those. Malcolm was generally considerate with

the toilet seat, Matthew perhaps not so much. It is

strange to think how it used to bother me. And now I

am bothered by something I do not have to do. Do not

have to remind someone of.

And socks. I am disturbed by the lack of socks in the

house. It hardly seems right, does it? I mean most women

are forever complaining about having to wash them

(my mother even used to iron my father’s socks) and

find lost ones. But now, living in a house without socks

doesn’t seem right somehow. It is yin without yang.

Everything is out of balance. There are plenty of houses

with only female occupants of course. It is simply that

this house was never meant to be one of them.

I reach over and turn on the radio. I am not particularly

fond of Classic FM. I rather like John Suchet – although

I could never understand what he was doing on ITV

instead of the BBC – but I would prefer not to have to listen

to the adverts. Still, it was one of the things I discovered

after Malcolm left – that not having Classic FM on in the

mornings reminded me more of his absence than having

it on.

I think Matthew preferred it on too. Although maybe

for the same reasons I did. I don’t know because he never

spoke about his father after he left. Matthew knew better

than to bring such things up at the dinner table. Or

anywhere else for that matter. And I, of course, know

better than to discuss Matthew’s departure too.

I hear Melody miaowing outside the door. She has

never been allowed in the bedrooms. It troubles me that

so many people do permit such things. Certainly she

has been a huge comfort to me, and I understand the

human soul’s need for comfort, I truly do. But we should

not accept another species into our most private room.

That is how the lines start to become blurred. People

have this ridiculous notion that we and animals are

somehow on the same level. I blame Disney films. I blame

them for a lot of things. All of this over-sentimentality

and the vulgar Americanisms which have crept into

our language. I saw the P. L. Travers film at the cinema.

They had it on for elevenses at the Picture House in

Hebden Bridge. Saving Mr Banks, I think they called it.

Though personally I think it was Mr Disney who needed

saving. Poor Miss Travers was rather lazily portrayed, I

thought. I mean it’s all too easy, isn’t it? The middleaged,

middle-class Englishwoman as an odd and

emotionally cold spinster, out of step with the modern

world. Maybe if we’d listened more to the likes of

her then the world would be in a rather better state

today.

I prop myself up with the pillows. I’ve never believed

in jumping straight out of bed. You need a little time to

acclimatise, to see the world from a vertical position

before you actually set foot in it. I listen to the news, or

rather I am aware that the news is on. The words themselves

wash over me. You get to an age where you have

heard it all before. Each item only a variation on wellworn

themes, and it doesn’t really matter that the

names are different, or even some of the details. Because

nothing changes. Whatever sort of fuss is kicked up

about these things, the old order will be maintained.

And one day these young people, young people like Matthew,

will accept it as I do, rather than thinking they

can somehow change the way things are.

 

BE SURE TO CHECK THE OTHER STOPS ON „WHILE MY EYES WERE CLOSED” BLOG TOUR!

Summer at the cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

Summer at the Cornish Cafe

by Phillipa Ashley

 

Publisher: Avon (Maze)

Publishing Date: 5th May 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 298

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

 Synopsis:

One summer can change everything . . .
Demi doesn’t expect her summer in Cornwall to hold anything out of the ordinary. As a waitress, working all hours to make ends meet, washing dishes and serving ice creams seems to be as exciting as the holiday season is about to get.
That’s until she meets Cal Penwith. An outsider, like herself, Cal is persuaded to let Demi help him renovate his holiday resort, Kilhallon Park. Set above an idyllic Cornish cove, the once popular destination for tourists has now gone to rack and ruin. During the course of the Cornish summer, Demi makes new friends – and foes – as she helps the dashing and often infuriating Cal in his quest. Working side by side, the pair grow close, but Cal has complications in his past which make Demi wonder if he could ever truly be interested in her.
Demi realises that she has finally found a place she can call home. But as the summer draws to a close, and Demi’s own reputation as an up and coming café owner starts to spread, she is faced with a tough decision . . .
A gorgeous story exploring new beginnings, new love and new opportunities, set against the stunning background of the Cornish coast. Phillipa Ashley has written a feisty, compelling heroine who leaps off the page and encourages you to live your summer to the full.
Recommended for readers who loved Summer at Shell Cottage, The Cornish House, Tremarnock and Poldark.

Rating: 4/5

 

When requesting „Summer at the Cornish Cafe” I was expecting a novel full of sunshine, romance, changes and feel – good factor – the synopsis sounded so inviting, and the cover is gorgeous, right? I haven’t read any other books by Philippa Ashley, under this or other name (yes, I know. And I am ashamed!), which only added some excitement, so full of expectations I dived into this story. A story, that is the first part in the planned Penwith Trilogy.

However the title may suggest, cafe is not exactly at the heart of this story although it plays a big part in it. Because this novel is about many different things, such as new beginnings, old love, betrayals, bullying, hope, and it is written in such down – to – earth and engaging way that I really didn’t know when this reading time passed. Even though it was a rather predictable read, and a book that won’t change the world, it was a warm, delightful read and even though I had some issues with the characters (in a moment, in a moment!), I felt a part of this novel already.

What issues again, I can hear you asking. Some issues :) As much as I liked the writing style, I couldn’t connect with the characters. They weren’t complex enough for me, and I had a feeling that we are not allowed to get to know them, that there are things at loose ends – maybe it’s because it’s the first book in the series, who knows – things that are mentioned and then forgotten or never mentioned again. Also, some of the characters were a tad too clichéd, too stereotyped for my liking, they were either very good or very bad. And I’ve never warmed to Cal, he was too moody for my liking and I didn’t like the way he treated people, so there. Yes, I totally understand where he was coming from, his background was complicated and we know that something had happened when he was abroad with his mission, but he’s bottling the things up and they’re probably going to explode one day, but nevertheless, in this novel we don’t know what happened and I just didn’t fell for Cal and his charm and, to be absolutely honest, I am still not sure if he can lay his past behind him . Demi, on the other hand, was great, I think there is much more to this girl than meet the eye and I am waiting impatiently to see if she hides any secrets, and also how the relationship is going to develop. Demi was also my favourite kind of character, the one that was developing and growing throughout the story, and I loved to see how her self – confidence is bigger with every page turned, and how inventive she is.

Also, the plot is lovely, but there is nothing that I can say I haven’t read before. We have girl – meets – boy subplot there, we have ex – lovers subplot there, we have jealous and rejected girl plotting a revenge there, and we have some pulling the rug out from under the characters’ feet, both love – and jobwise. There were moments that I was rolling my eyes, yes, I admit, but well, mostly I enjoyed reading this novel, and I liked these subplots. Especially the renovating of Kilhallon Park was a little breath of fresh air there, even though it was obvious that someone, sometime is going to try to harm Cal and Demi :) The descriptions of the setting were lovely and so very vivid, and even though they were really detailed, I didn’t have a feeling, just like it often happens, that the author tried to fill the pages or that I was reading a travel guide. Phillipa Ashley had in a very colourful way described the beach with the shops, the cove where Demi liked to spend her time and finally the Kilhallon Park itself, and it also doesn’t happen often but I’d really like to see all of these places by myself – the author brought them life and made them feel so realistic. The story alternates between Demi and Cal’s points of view which I really enjoyed, as it gave us a chance to hear both perspectives, though, because of Cal being so closed in himself and not willing to open, I have a feeling that he didn’t tell us as much about his feelings as Demi did.

I think it was this lovely writing style and the way the story was told that saved this book for me. Altogether, it was a great summer read and it brilliantly captured atmosphere of summer, even though the story doesn’t only happen in summer – but I had a feeling that the sun is all the time shining when I was reading it, even though I was already in bed. Yes, it was a tad predictable, but there were still some twists and turns and I was not always able to guess what’s going to happen. It was easy to read but it also had some more depth to it and I truly appreciate the fact that the story hints at some darker things that happened in the past but will be revealed in the next parts.

Book of the Month: April

Hi guys! It’s happening again – it’s time to share my Book of the Month with you, which I am only too happy to oblige. I’ve noticed that even though I am reading the same great number of books in one month, I’ve become much more picky and only few books give me a bookish hangover this time. In April it was a book by Anna McPartlin – „Somewhere Inside of Happy„. I laughed and I cried when reading it, and I couldn’t stop to admire the incredible writing style and the way the author has written this story, and I can tell you one thing: whatever you do, please read this novel! Here you can read my review of this emotional, exceptional story.

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe

by Debbie Johnson

 

Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publishing Date: 1st May 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 293

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 16th June 2016)

 

 Synopsis:

The brand new book from best-selling author Debbie Johnson will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you raid the pantry in the middle of the night…

The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.

But following the death of her beloved husband David two years earlier, Laura knows that it’s time to move on. To find a way to live without him, instead of just surviving. To find her new place in the world, and to fill the gap that he’s left in all their lives.

Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.

For her, the Comfort Food Cafe doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

Rating: 5/5

 

The first thing that comes to my mind is that each book by Debbie Johnson is better than the previous one, though I’m not sure how it’s possible, as they are all brilliant. I especially loved Debbie’s „The Birthday That Changed Everything” – it was a hilarious yet very touching read, but „Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe” is just like that! I’ve spent reading the last chapters of this book crying like a crocodile but not because it was so sad – on the contrary, it was so uplifting and promising and full of hope, and so touching, but still with the characteristic Debbie’s humour and I just loved this story. So there. Debbie Johnson is for sure at the top of my favourite authors list and I hope she’ll be writing such great books for a long time.

I promised myself I won’t be comparing books but I can’t not. Sorry. Especially as I still am mentioning „The Birthday That Changed Everything” at every opportunity. This book, and „Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe” are very similar in tone and characters, yet they are different to each other. I can’t help thinking that this new release is much more mature in tone and is a little bit on the more serious side but nevertheless, it is also full of humour, fantastic one – liners and larger than life, full of life characters (not only human characters. Oh my. You’ve no idea how much I cried. I skipped this chapter, to be honest, because I knew I won’t stop crying for hours).

Debbie Johnson’s writing style makes you feel very welcome and throws you into the heart of the story immediately. I was hooked from the page one and I would read this book in one sitting if I had it in paperback and not in ebook – I am reading my kindle books usually in bed and I am often so knackered that I am able to read only few pages, no matter how good the book is. I loved the beginning of this novel, which is in a form of a letter that Laura’s written in a reply to a job advert, and where we learn almost everything about her, her situation, her family and background, and where I actually already fell in love with her and wanted to be friends with her.
Laura was so perfectly developed. Her feelings of uncertainty, grief and pain were so palpable and tugged at all the right heartstrings but what I most loved about her is that, after those two years of being a single mum, of closing herself in a shell, she finally starts to grow in confidence, to see that future may have something on offer for her and that she and the kids deserve it. She opens to other people, comes out of her comfort zones and while she’s never going to forget and to stop loving David, she starts to take some steps forward, with a little help of the cafe, Cherie and Matt of course. She’s transforming before our eyes, and while we get to know her as a grieving widow, kissing a photo of her late – husband and sleeping with his dressing gown, we leave her with the feeling that she’s ready for the new, happy future. The author has brilliantly and with lots of feelings described the process of Laura’s grieving and made her both special and normal.

I also loved how Ms Johnson portrayed the family life and how they all tried to cope – better or worse – with all the new situations that life was throwing at them. It felt so genuine, and the characters were so honest in the way they acted and talked. The children were just like the children at their age should be, and Laura was just like a mum should be, and I loved their interactions. Debbie Johnson can absolutely perfectly describe teenagers that are run by the hormones. She did it in an unforgettable way in „The Birthday That Changed Everything” and she did it again in „Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe”. She brilliantly captures the teenage souls, with their likes and dislikes and she knows what it is that make them cool and up – to – date. Lizzie was the moody one who hated her mum and brother and the whole world actually, and never leaving the house without her phone. But she’s not as gloomy as it sounds, she’s lovely and very innovative and she only needs a little trust to spread her wings. Nate is lovely, too big and cool for a cuddle in the public, but not in the privacy of his home, and he totally knocked me out at the end of the book with his clever speech. There is also Laura’s family, especially her sister, and their phone conversations were so hilarious, but also so heart – warming, and you just could feel this special sisterly bond between these two.

Moreover, there are so many background characters, characters that enter the scenes for only a moment or two but they all feel so important and they are inseparable part of this novel. All of them had their own stories to tell and I loved how the author treated them all with respect and feeling, and adored how they all were in need of the comfort food made for them at the Comfort Food Cafe. Their presence added so much depth to the story, and awoke so many emotions, but also fun. But now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Matt… Awww, Matt… The local vet and the first person that Laura gets to know at her new place, of course in a very embarrassing situation let me tell you, but let’s focus on Matt again. There was something so very special in him that made him perfect in my eyes. Sure, he had his flaws (probably!) but altogether I think I would exchange Matt for my husband (psssst!), even though my husband bought me more than one puppy in my life. He was just so human, our Matt, and I think I have a little crush on him. I absolutely adored the blossoming, awkward romance between him and Laura, the dancing around each other but without the never ending will they/won’t they that is so often over – done, no, here it was lovely and believable, and not so obvious!

The book is divided into weeks that Laura and the children spent at the cafe, and each week’s header hints at what we can expect in the next chapters, and believe me, when Laura tells in one of the headers that it is the week she’s going to cry mostly, I was crying with her. The descriptions are so fluent but not over – descriptive, they are colourful and vivid and brings all the places, people and things to life. I loved the idea of the Comfort Food Cafe itself, a place in Budbury that offers – yes! – comfort food but also solace and where everyone is heartily welcome. This cafe, and the wonderful setting that Debbie Johnson has so wonderfully brought to life, with all the vivid descriptions of all the places and weather, just made me want to go on holidays and maybe stay in such a place for ever – so if you know such place, please kindly let me know.

„Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe” is about new beginnings and about being brave enough to give these new beginnings a new chance, even though there are things that you think can stop you or if you fear the future. And it also shows that we should trust our instincts and other people as well, because they are by nature good and willing to help. It is uplifting, optimistic and made me look in the future with hope. I was totally impressed with this book and I loved every minute I spent in the company of the characters. The cafe was a place where you could feel safe and the whole story was sweet, charming, uplifting and true to life. It was fast – paced, bubbly, funny and emotional, and the blossoming romance, that doesn’t get control over the whole story was believable and charming. A truly delicious read – also because of this gorgeous food at the cafe (please give me the variation on the yoghurt that Laura has made!!!), poignant but also full of humour, a lovely story of a small family moving forward and healing but not forgetting about the past told in a very gentle way. Just the kind of read that I adore and will recommend to everyone.

The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

The Swimming Pool

by Louise Candlish

 

Publisher: Michael Joseph / Penguin

Publishing Date: 5th May 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 14.07.2016)

 

 Synopsis:

The thrilling new novel from bestselling author Louise Candlish.

It’s summer, and for teachers Ed and Natalie Steele this means six weeks off work with their young daughter Molly. Their lives are predictable and uncomplicated — or at least they were until they meet the Faulkners.

Suddenly, glamorous Lara Channing, a former actress leading an eccentrically lavish lifestyle, is taking Natalie under her wing and the stability of summer takes an exciting turn.

But are there hidden motives behind this new friendship? And when the end-of-summer party at the lido is cut short by a blackout, Natalie realizes that she’s been kept in the dark all along.

Rating: 5/5

 

Last year I read and loved „The Sudden Departures of the Frasers” by Louise Candlish, so much in fact that the book made it to the list of my top books in 2015. I adored the tension, the writing style, the way this story was built and keeping this all in mind I was impatiently waiting for Ms Candlish new release, „The Swimming Pool”. It is similar in tone to the previous novel, and in the end I found it absolutely gripping and compelling, and loved how the story developed – you knew something is not right from the very beginning but till almost the end you don’t know who does it involve. Molly? Natalie? Lara?

I am really not sure if the author wanted us to like the characters but you can also like the book without liking them! For me it was truly incredible how well the author captured the relationship between Lara and Natalie, this unusual friendship. It was crystal clear for me that it is a friendship with benefits, benefits for Lara. She belongs to this category of people that I personally don’t like, the Queen Bee, a person that wants to know everything and everyone, behaving like an Ice Queen and choosing people she wants to befriend, making others feel jealous and seek her friendship. She was toxic and I had a feeling that I can’t breath in her company. I could go on and on about her, as she was really brilliantly portrayed, just like the other characters, and I am truly awestruck with the author’s ability to create such complex heroes, but I don’t want to spoil the reading for you, as I’m sure that something would escape me, and I don’t want it!

Louise Candlish also develops the relationship between Natalie and Ed throughout this summer with consequences. I must admit that I had some problems with Ed, as well as with all the other characters of course. Yes, he relatively quickly read the real Lara, he had his doubts but he himself was so hard to crack. I truly didn’t know what to think about him, almost to the end, there was something that was pushing me away from him and I couldn’t trust him. Natalie… Well, Natalie, I think she was so bored of her role of a mother, wife and teacher that she just jumped on the chance to have a relatively exciting summer for once and nobody can blame her for this, right? However, the way she jumped on this chance, the way she so quickly fell under Lara’s spell was more appropriate for a teenager than for an adult woman, but yes, I know, these things happen, very often, and I couldn’t stop admire how well Louise Candlish described how Natalie was besotted with Lara and how she craved her attention, how she started to be obsessed with her, alienating everybody around her only to be with Lara and what she was prone to sacrifice to be accepted in the Channings’ friends’ circle. However, I never warmed to her. I might have fell for her and had sympathy for her but never warmed to her. Mostly I wanted to shake her, to be honest, and put some sense into her as she’d seen things that she wanted to see, and all the rest became secondary to her. But – and this is what fascinated me so much, how great the author has written this – I could also see the attraction and somehow, I understood Natalie. We all want to have our own five minutes in live, right? To feel special and important.
Also, I’ve never warmed to Lara. I had a feeling that she’s hiding something, that her interest in Natalie is not serious, that she wants to befriend her only to achieve something – so just like toxic people are, they work their way up using other people. But she also fascinated me and I wanted to see what’s hidden under the facade and what skeletons does she have in her own cupboard. She seemed so very perfect and leading perfect life, she was rich, successful, and whatever she did, turned into success, just like opening the lido. There was a moment that I started to suspect something about Lara and started to think that she might be a person from Natalie’s past, even earlier than Natalie herself started to think this way but – needless to say – I was of course wrong, the author took me by surprise.

Why is the swimming pool itself so important for the story? Well, Natalie and Ed’s daughter Molly has aquaphobia, so when they hear that the new lido in their neighbourhood is going to be re – opened, they are all a little anxious. The action mostly takes place around the lido and water and as much as I love water and swimming I have a big respect of it, just like with the whole nature, so I really could imagine how all the people involved feel. Quickly it becomes clear that the biggest drama is also going to happen with the lido in the centre, as the author touches upon some issues that I was aware of but didn’t know that you can take to such extreme, such as making a competition of keeping your breath under water as long as possible. Keeping in mind Molly’s fear of water I really felt the tension and I just could feel with my whole persona that something is going to happen at the lido.

The story must jump between past and present so that we have a chance to learn what happened in the past and to start feeling unsure about everything. There are flashbacks to a summer when Natalie was a teenager and when something happened, something that still haunts her, something that makes her afraid to visit her mother and grandmother. But there was really this overwhelming feeling that something big is still going to happen, even though we already know that san accident took place already, as the book starts with it. However, the tension is built in a crippling way and until the climax we are truly kept in the dark. Yes, of course, I was trying to guess but in the end I didn’t have a chance, as everything that I thought turned out wrong – this story was one big surprise, it was full of twists and turns and I really didn’t know what to expect when I turned the page.

Louise Candlish is a fantastic psychologist and can brilliantly dig into people’s nature and inner thoughts. I’m not sure if I would say that this story is about friendship because in the end it turned out that it wasn’t friendship at all, but nevertheless, the author in a fantastic way submerges into the complicated depths of female’s nature. She wonderfully and realistically captured a toxic relationship where one woman must sacrifice almost everything to bask in glory of other woman’s feelings, described how it is to be torn between your family and some kind of sense of loyalty to a stranger. This story has so many surfaces and layers, it’s explores a long term marriages, dullness of life and then how it can quickly change when a glamorous and exciting friendship heave into sight. It is told also in a complex way, but I didn’t have any problems to follow the sudden switches between the past and present. We know that the date of 31 August is very significant, that something very bad happened then but we must wait till the end to see what exactly happened.

What I so liked in this book was the unpredictability of it. I think nobody could foresee what’s going to happen next, neither we, readers, nor the characters. „The Swimming Pool” was really a book that took my breath away and I was totally immersed in it. There is intrigue in it, mystery, secrets and brilliantly well drawn and complex characters. The author kept us on our toes till the end that was incredibly tense and made me feel uncertain, but also very neatly tied up and I finished reading feeling very satiated and satisfied. The plot was clever, intelligent and the story was well paced. The way this story unfolds, relatively slowly but very tense, is great. Yes, there were moments that I felt the narration is much too descriptive and when it should focus on the really significant things, it wanders off the course and sometimes I struggled to keep on track with the story, but altogether the pace is right for this novel. The writing itself is so brilliant and the tension is palpable in every word and makes me question what IS there in this strange friendship between Natalie and Lara and what is future going to bring. Ms Candlish has a great talent to get into the characters’ heads, to describe their most hidden feelings and thoughts and thanks to this I was caught up in their lives so very much. She writes them with all their flaws and she doesn’t make them very likeable, but first of all she makes them authentic and true to life, sharply describing their ups and downs. She doesn’t make them straightforward and she lets you think that you know them all so well – people, as well as the dogs – even though in the end you start to question your own knowledge and start to doubt. Which is brilliant! I love such complexity! It’s demanding, it’s difficult but I LOVE it! Highly recommended!