Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World was a New York Times Editor’s Pick, one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s 50 Best Books of the Year, and is now a major motion picture. Bondurant has now delivered The Night Swimmer, an atmospheric tale infused with Hitchcockian suspense.
When Fred and Elly Bulkington arrive in a small town on the southern coast of Ireland from Vermont, having won a pub in a contest, they encounter a wild, strange land and the native resistance to outsiders. As Fred immerses himself in the life of a pub-owner, Elly takes the ferry out to a nearby island where she—to the disbelief of the locals—is consumed by her ritual of open water ocean swimming, pushing herself to the limits. Elly becomes enmeshed in the island’s troubles—the power struggles between an enigmatic goat herder and the family that has controlled the area for centuries—while Fred’s sanity wavers and their marriage begins to unravel. Filled with lush imagery of the Irish coast, crashing sea, rolling hills, and rich Irish lore, The Night Swimmer is a stunning novel that exposes the dark and unseen crevasses in the human heart.
The audible blurb makes this book sound like a recipe for the perfect escape story - mysterious natural beauty, intrigue, a marriage "unraveling". But the novel disappoints. The characters are not fleshed out, the descriptions are way too long, and most of the writing is backstory. The reader keeps waiting for something to happen - we don't know what that "something" is, but we sense it's awful. I kept waiting for the story to begin.
I wish that the author was just a little bit less infatuated with his powers of description and had devoted more of this book to an actual story. The book moves at the pace of swimming - progressing ahead laboriously by tiny bits, and seen through murky waters.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
This was my first experience with a Matt Bondurant book and he's not going on my "watch for new books" list, at least not with this effort.
An American couple move to an old Irish village when they win a pub in a contest. The wife, Ellie, connects with many of the villagers, and she hears all of these interesting things - stories - about goings on around this very old Irish Village, not to mention the strange things she starts to see.
A mysterious goat that roams the village on two legs and is watching over Ellie from a far? A strange lone form in the ocean, a lone seal or something else? A young naked child with long flowing blond hair climbing the outside of the abandoned lighthouse? Stories of the Lost Children with bits of bone and broken toys left for them? In the ocean Ellie feels movement below her and she can smell the strong choking smell of blood all around her... Ellie later hears a story about a ferry that went down several years ago with most all of the villages children on it and they died in the ocean near the lighthouse. On and on these interesting stories or happenings come up and then they never go anywhere or they're never even mentioned again.
They're the story I wanted to read, instead we get a story about a couple trying to make a go at a pub in an old Irish village. The husband loses himself, and drinks more than he serves, and the wife spends all of her time planning her swims and hanging around with men that are not her husband.
I enjoyed Hillary Huber, I've listened to several other books that shes read so the familiar voice was refreshing, I just wish the story was also.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful