#387 ~ The Night Swimmer

The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant

Published by: Scribner

Published on: January 10, 2012

Page Count: 288

Genre: Fiction

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.

My Review

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.


  • At 2012.01.11 14:49, Rebecca said:

    I felt the same way about the ending. I was a bit confused then and about the girl she saw on one of her swims to Fastnet. I did like the book, and I think I’ll check out “The Wettest Country in the World,” which is being made into a movie too.

    • At 2012.01.11 16:47, Sandy said:

      It sounds interesting, especially because it takes place in Ireland. Plus that whole seal fat thing. I’m going to see if my library has the audio…

      • At 2012.02.01 13:49, Goodbye January, Hello February! said:

        […] The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant (began in December) Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer (began in December) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett A Year and Six Seconds by Isabel Gillies First You Try Everything by Jane McCafferty Goldfinger by Ian Fleming Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis Restoration by Olaf Olafsson (released on 2/7/12) The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt […]

        (Required, will not be published)

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