Synopsis: From the “remarkable storyteller” ( San Francisco Chronicle ) and highly acclaimed author of The Wettest County in the World comes a suspenseful novel about a young American couple who win a pub on the southernmost tip of Ireland and become embroiled in local violence and intrigue.
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 being made into a major motion picture. Now, Bondurant has 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.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Matt Bondurant’s The Night Swimmer was a book I pushed my reading boundaries on. Bondurant captivated me with his carefully sought out words that brought a level of deep and emotional meaning to each sentence. The voice is clear and concise, allowing me to be aware of each scene, each character, and definitely each detail that came to life on the page.
The Night Swimmer is a really well written book. Bondurant’s female voice is calculated and concise, but does not lack the emotion of a female, a wife, a woman understanding herself in a strange environment. And if the cover didn’t warn me enough, the story was filled with mystery, giving me goosebumps for a good part of the story.
The Night Swimmer is about Elly, a woman with a minor abnormality that allows her to prolong her time in the water. She doesn’t look at it as a defect, but as a blessing, allowing her to be at peace in the ocean. Bondurant describes the times as Elly’s communion with the ocean – fittingly so. Elly has won a pub in Ireland, and has found herself moving to Ireland. As her husband Fred restores the pub, Elly spends her time exploring, and in time, swimming in the waters near Cape Clear Island.
Once a couple in love, Elly and her husband find her marriage unraveling. Fred submerged himself into the pub and the business, while writing his elusive novel. Elly swims and befriends the locals, but as they ignore her, Elly becomes involved with the arguments of the townspeople. And that’s when the suspense kicks in.
I am a big literary wuss. It definitely tested my limits of what I was comfortable with. It was suspenseful and edgy, but I could not turn away. I was fascinated with each word and each turn of the page. Through Elly, I embraced the unexpected. She was strong enough to keep her feet on the ground, and so could I.
Prose flowed so well. The words sang, allowing the story to be fluid. And like the water that Elly loves so well, it is the same for the story – at times calm, other times raging and chaotic, going in many directions without any borders and boundaries. The writing style is different. At times thoughts and words actually said aloud blended together. No quotation marks? I’ve seen it before, but I was surprised. It worked well and it allowed me to absorb everything in one breath.
Love a good mystery, suspenseful thriller? Bondurant’s The Night Swimmer is definitely the book for you.