The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic

Cover of The First Rule of Swimming

The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic

Published by: Little, Brown & Company

Published on: May 28, 2013

Page Count: 321

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher for consideration

Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook

Summary from the Publisher:

A woman must leave her island home to search for her missing sister-and confront the haunted history of her family.

Magdalena does not panic when she learns that her younger sister has disappeared. A free-spirit, Jadranka has always been prone to mysterious absences. But when weeks pass with no word, Magdalena leaves the isolated Croatian island where their family has always lived and sets off to New York to find her sister. Her search begins to unspool the dark history of their family, reaching back three generations to a country torn by war.

A haunting and sure-footed debut by an award-winning writer, The First Rule of Swimming explores the legacy of betrayal and loss in a place where beauty is fused inextricably with hardship, and where individuals are forced to make wrenching choices as they are swept up in the tides of history.

My Review

The First Rule of Swimming appealed to me initially for two reasons: the gorgeous cover (sometimes the superficial is what it takes to capture attention) and the Croatian island setting. I loved what Little Brown did with this cover, but it was the story that kept me interested and reading. Courtney Angela Brkic brought Croatia and the violence of its recent past into focus. Reading it made me understand why people would be content to live their lives on a secluded island that offered little amenities.

As the oldest of five siblings (one brother and three sisters), it was the relationship between Magdalena and Jadranka that meant the most to me while I was reading and long after I finished. I could very much relate to Magdalena’s feelings toward Jadranka. The sisters are close, but it is Magdalena who feels responsible for the grandparents who raised them. While she initially attributes Jadranka’s flightiness to her different and less attached personality, her search for her sister forced her to take a closer look at her life, the life of her family, and the future. It took the more adventurous and courageous sister to bring the truth out into the open, but Jadranka couldn’t have been the woman she was without the steadfast love and support of Magdalena.

I would have recommended this title for the May Bloggers Recommend Newsletter had the wonderful My Friend Amy not beaten me to it. This book is well written and has much to offer readers who enjoy historical fiction and women’s fiction.


  • At 2013.08.01 06:25, Sandy said:

    Wow! Sounds like a book that has a little of everything. I love the stories where the characters dig back into their family history, especially one as fascinating as theirs.

    • At 2013.08.01 08:36, Jennifer said:

      I’m glad you reviewed this one! I’ve had it on my tbr pile and keep putting it off for some reason. Now I know that I need to get to it! 😀

      • At 2013.08.01 12:07, Anita said:

        I love the cover of this book!! I’m in a phase of adding as few new books to my lists or stacks. Glad you enjoyed.

        • At 2013.08.01 13:13, Ellison Weist said:

          Ahh, Jennifer – what would I do without you! This one peaked my interest but I was waffling. I’ve got a copy of her short story debut, “Stillness,” so will try to read both. Great review, nice way to push me into action.

          Read more from Ellison Weist

          6: An Interview with Adrienne Martini, Sci-Fi Whisperer

          Can this mild-mannered woman convert The BookBully into a Science Fiction/Fantasy Lover? Listen to Ellison’s interview with Adrienne Martini, who loves all things about a genre The BookBully isn[…]

          • At 2013.08.01 14:54, Kelly said:

            I agree, the cover is definitely the first thing that draws you to this one! Happy to hear that the prose follows suit. I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages.

            (Required, will not be published)

            %d bloggers like this: