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Is it better to know for sure or to live with hope?

Swimming Lessons - Claire Fuller

How could I not enjoy a book that is set in a house with books piled up against all the walls, on the sofa and spread over all flat surfaces? But the interesting thing about all these books is that they have been collected, not for the book itself, but for the "marginalia", the writings and doodles that previous owners have added, or maybe a letter or other insert, left by a past reader.

OK, I admit, I hate books to be written in or pages turned down, yet this idea of "marginalia" does appeal to me.


So, when Ingrid decides to write her story in letters to her husband, it is totally in keeping that she will hide these letters inside various books around the house, always appropriately chosen for the theme of the given letter. Will he ever find them, or even realise that they are there?

She tells of her meeting with her college professor, their courtship and eventual marriage; how she felt and what she discovered over the years. In the end she leaves/disappears, her two daughters and Gil, her husband are left questioning her fate. Is it better to know or to live with hope?


The characterisations are excellent, we really get to know Ingrid, the two sisters, Flora and Nan, their father, his friend Jonathan and Flora's boyfriend, Richard - although we don't necessarily like them all. There's a lot going on behind the scenes, and it's the gradual reveal that is the essence of this book.


Gil is now old but still lives in the isolated beach house of Flora and Nan's childhood. When the story begins he is sure he has glimpsed his missing wife through a window and he sets out after her, falling and injuring himself. When he is hospitalised it brings the girls back to their childhood home to care for him. Did he see his wife that day?