The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant
Published by: Scribner
Published on: January 10, 2012
Page Count: 288
My Reading Format: Review copy provided by the publisher for consideration
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Thoughts about Format: The audiobook is narrated by Hillary Huber. After reading this in print, I wonder how my experience might have been different had I read this in audio. If you’ve listened to this audiobook, I’d love to know what you thought.
Elly has a unique physical trait. Her body holds a thin layer of fat just under her skin much in the same way as a seal. This allows her to swim in waters normally too cold for a typical person. She is married to Fred, who has just won a pub in Baltimore, a small town near the Southern coast of Ireland. They set out on this grand adventure as excited soul mates. Fred is thrilled to be a pub owner and have time to write his novel. Elly is excited for new places to lose herself in the water. They leave the United States passionate about their lives, each other, and the future. They didn’t anticipate becoming entangled in a local feud that would tear them apart.
There was much I enjoyed about this novel. Bondurant’s writing was beautiful. I loved the pictures he painted both of Elly and Fred’s early marriage as well as the beauty of Ireland. Elly’s voice and the way she described her love of Fred and her passion for swimming was as intoxicating as the massive amounts of cocktails and beer the two of them drank. I loved the picture of a young couple making a unique life for themselves. The supporting characters, especially those on Cape Clear Island were I nestled right in to their story and it felt good.
The darker mystery of the Cape Clear Island and the novel’s conclusion were more puzzling to me than satisfying. I wanted the whole of the novel to captivate me the way the tone and the setting did, but it wasn’t there for me. I finished the book feeling that I had missed something major. I appreciate a subtle hand in an author, but I just left the novel feeling sad.
The Night Swimmer is fascinating as a character study and makes a beautiful, wind swept escape from everyday. Bondurant writing, characters, and settings are marvelous and make up for the lack of punch in the end. I have a feeling Elly and Fred will stick with me over time. I have no doubt that I will be reading more Matt Bonderant.