Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Night Swimmer” as Want to Read:
The Night Swimmer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Night Swimmer

3.04  ·  Rating Details ·  654 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
An “evocative and often lyrical” (San Francisco Chronicle) novel about a young American couple who win a pub on the southernmost tip of Ireland and become embroiled in the local violence and intrigue.

The Night Swimmer, Matt Bondurant’s utterly riveting modern gothic novel of marriage and belonging, confirms his gift for storytelling that transports and enthralls.

In a smal
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Scribner (first published January 10th 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Night Swimmer, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Matt Bondurant
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Matt Bondurant
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 06, 2012 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
mild horror that could grab your spine a bit. plus expert treatment of swimming in very cold water. win a bar in ireland, get in a big ass fight with the local hillbillys. love your partner so much you stop having sex. take any and all drugs at any and all times. fall in love with the idea of falling in love with a blind hippie old man goat farmer. see what happens when you live in the howling wind for a year. be skeptical about globalized faux tourism.

“The night swimmer” by Matt Bondurant

A bit
Tim Chamberlain
May 23, 2012 Tim Chamberlain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written for the KAZI Book Review (

The Night Swimmer, the latest book by Matt Bondurant (author of The Wettest County in the World), is much like the narrator Elly’s favorite hobby: a dark swim through a choppy ocean. It is a haunting tale of love, intrigue and obsession, tinged with regret throughout.

Bondurant tells the story of Elly and Fred, an American couple that wins an Irish pub and moves there to run it. Of course, these things are never quite that si
Paul Pessolano
“The Night Swimmer” by Matt Bondurant, published by Scribner.

Category – Fiction/Literature

Fred Bulkington and his wife Elly live in Vermont. Fred enters a contest and wins a pub in a small town in Ireland. Fred becomes involved in the opening of the pub while Elly, a world class swimmer, spends most of her time on a nearby island. Elly has a condition that allows her to survive in very cold water and she becomes acquainted with the locals due to her long swims in very cold water.

Fred finds the g
This book is mostly set in a small community in the southwest corner of Ireland. The narrator and her husband are Americans trying to cope with a near-miss on 9/11 who win a pub in the community in a contest. The story tracks their relationship with each other and with the people who live in and/or regularly visit this community over about a 9-month period.

That doesn't sound like a completely fascinating tale, or it sounds like it could be rather comforting and pastoral...and it instead complete
Mar 23, 2012 Mary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm really not sure why I finished this was hard to follow. Way too much description and not enough narrative... the plot seemed to be an afterthought and was very confusing. Still not sure what happened at the end and why.
Tammy Dotts
Jan 10, 2012 Tammy Dotts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Books captivate readers for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s a character that reminds you of someone you know or someone you want to know. Maybe it’s a setting that you’ve always dreamt of. Maybe the plot engages your attention fully, refusing to let go even as it twists and turns.

If you’re lucky, a book captivates you because of its author’s voice and its author’s awareness of how to build character relationships and how to maintain suspense. Readers of Matt Bondurant’s The Night Swimmer can con
Debra Martin
“The Night Swimmer” is a beautifully written novel that tells the story of Fred and Elly and their undertaking in moving to Ireland when they win a pub. It’s a new adventure for them and they dive into it head-long without much thought. Fred is thrilled with the pub and Elly is free to indulge her own passion—swimming in the ocean. Through a genetic defect, Elly is able to swim in cold water without any adverse affects for quite a long time.

While Fred submerges himself in learning how to run a p
Wendy Hines
Fred and Elly have a good life, but it's busy. So when Fred wins an Irish Pub in Ireland in a dart competition, they decide to pack it all up and move. Fred studies up on how to run a pub, and Elly is anxious to swim in the waters. She's a long distance swimmer and she's extraordinarily good at it. She has a skin condition that gives her a higher fat density, making it easier for her to float and not drown.

When they arrive, it takes a while to get the pub, called the Nightjar, into working order
Jan 19, 2012 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing in this book was so beautiful. Luscious, dark prose - a throwback to Gothic fiction like Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn. This takes place in Ireland, near Cork and I loved the premise of it. A couple wins an Irish pub. When they move to the desolate town, they are caught in the mix of old legends and ruling clans. Their marriage suffers and stuff gets weird. At first the story-telling aspect of this novel was awesome - goats that walk on two legs, weird shipwrecks, ghost children, b ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Keith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, the novel has one of the best opening lines ever. And that's about the best thing I can say about it. I'm not really sure what themes Bondurant was trying to convey; certain passages, while well-written, just seem to come from nowhere; there's no cohesion to the plot; and none of the characters are likable or even that we'll developed. Take a pass.
Donna Marsh
The scenery of Ireland was described beautifully. The sense of mystery in the story made me want to continue to read it. I didn't like all the loose ends. It seemed as if there were several inner stories going on, some without closure. I didn't feel connection to any one character and there were several.
Nov 03, 2011 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed in this. It felt very kitchen-sink-y what with the ghosts and the feuds and the alcohol and the bad parenting and the flirtation and the swimming and the mystical goat.

I think there's a very good book in there somewhere.
I felt like this book had too many questions and not enough answers. We are lead to believe there is more to the Corrigans, more to Highgate, more to Fastnet, and more to Miranda. There's just more, and you're not told what the more is.
Article first published as Book Review:The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant on Blogcritics.

Personal interests often vary, and those with no knowledge or even care about those things which others see as unique and interesting, are a part of what makes each and every person individual. I do not profess to know much about swimming, nor do I understand the thoughts of those who live to swim, so I was quite surprised to find myself immersed in The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant.

The Night Swimmer tel
Sep 07, 2013 Yvonne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This story has everything going for it. But it never manages to become really good.
It's about a young, married couple who are very interesting characters, particularly Elly who is the Night Swimmer. She is an incredible swimmer who loves the freedom and challenge of deep water swimming, night or day. Elly literally has a different mechanism in her body that allows her to swim at 45 degrees without an insulated wet suit. When Elly and her husband Fred lived in Vermont, she swam across Lake Champl
Mandy Jo

This week’s headline? darts, pint, poem

Why this book? review in Statesman

Which book format? hardback from Half-Price

Primary reading environment? bedtime at home

Any preconceived notions? ambivalent Kirkus Review

Identify most with? grad student toadstools

Three little words? “And me, sober.”

Goes well with? clamshell of tea

Recommend this to? open water swimmers

One lazy weekend, while I was lying in bed reading this book, I heard a seagull call through the open window.

Strange, considering I make my
Apr 21, 2012 Sandie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fred and Elly Bulkington are the luckiest couple alive. They have won a genuine Irish pub in a contest, lock stock and barrel. All they have to do is open the doors and their new lives will begin.

But this is not the Ireland of sunny skies, laughing children and warm communities. This is the Ireland flung out on the outskirts of civilization, a dark, brooding, inbreed place where anyone not born there is called a 'blow-in'. A place with secrets that outsiders only catch occasional glimpses of. A
Linda Lackey
Thankfully, I read this novel well after our summer trip to Ireland where we met nothing but warm and inviting locals.  I got this book from the library after reading that the premise was based on an actual "win an Irish pub" contest sponsored by the people at Guinness back in 1998.  In Bondurant's fictional version, the winners are Fred and Elly, a Vermont couple whose prize is a pub in the tiny town of Baltimore on the southern coast of Ireland.  Once there, they encounter all sorts of obstacl ...more
Feb 04, 2015 Courtney rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, reviewed
I read this and I still don't have any real idea what it was about. What was the deal with the Corrigans and Highgate? I don't get it. Why wouldn't Conchur Corrigan let Elly board the ferry to leave the island? What did Elly say or do that led to Miranda being killed? None of this makes any damn sense, nor is it adequately explained.

While this is beautifully written, it has almost no plot to speak of. For that reason, I can't rate it any higher than 2 stars. I hate novels that don't explain thi
Nov 12, 2014 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audiobook and grew to love the narrator's cool, dispassionate voice. As Elly, the narrator, discovers more about the desolate islands surrounding the pub that she and her husband have "won", she has many frightening experiences, even while swimming in deep water, her natural element.
Some mysteries remain unexplained, and the ending is an abrupt and brutal conclusion which is neither satisfying nor fitting. Not sure what the author was trying to say -
Sue Latham
Jul 21, 2015 Sue Latham rated it did not like it
Shelves: i-give-up
Awful! Way to much we really need to know that the town of Baltimore is clustered along the curved bow of a small inlet surrounded by a sharp set of hills, more pronounced at each end, like a pair of shrugging shoulders. On the edge of a bay with limestone cliffs stretching hundreds of feet above the thrashing ocean. A half mile inland................................. it goes on and on and on.
Characters are appearing with no explanation.
Linda Griffin
Dec 01, 2014 Linda Griffin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really did not like this book and it took me forever to read it. There was far more about goat farming and cold water swimming than I cared to know about. I enjoy swimming but this was just boring. I did not like or was indifferent about the characters. I stuck it out till the end partly because once I start a book I feel like I have to finish it and because it was not a long book. It just seemed very long. I would not recommend it.
Feb 02, 2017 Carolyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The narrative perspective in this novel is particularly well drawn; however, I really did not understand the story. For about 3/4 of the novel, I had no trouble, but in the last quarter or less, a whole bunch of stuff happens that made no sense to me at all. I was also not certain I should be reading this book as a realistic novel or a fantasy or magical realism. There were fantastic elements which were never clearly identified as being an actual part of the fabula or just figments of characters ...more
Feb 22, 2017 Sandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book before I traveled to Ireland, and while I found it intriguing in its study of two people and their responses to a new situation, it had many elements that gave me a disconcerting sense of anxiety -- not necessarily a recommendation for an enjoyable read! Elly's open-water swimming in a vast, unfamiliar sea was a perfect metaphor for the couple's decision to uproot their somewhat complacent lives, move to the southern coast of Ireland and take on the business of running the pub t ...more
Tom McDade
Jan 07, 2017 Tom McDade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

"A powerful book...Cheever by way of Mario Puzo and Jorge Luis Borges."

-New York Times Book Review
Amy Lignor

Into the lives of Fred and Elly Bulkington we go, a young couple from New England (Vermont to be precise) who move to Ireland in order to take over a Pub called, Nightjar, that they won in a contest. The Pub is located in a very isolated spot on the Southern Coast of Ireland that is only frequented by birdwatchers and fishermen. And once the couple arrives, readers soon learn why this is one of the most desolate places on the planet.

Fred and Elly met as graduate students while studying in Englis
Posted on Book Chelle.

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 e
I'm still on Clear and I closed the book (via Kindle) two nights ago. This 'review' will lack the punch of my first go-'round that I neglected to Save. But, here you go...
Bondurant writes like the well-schooled MFA ought to write and embellishes like an accomplished PhD must. By that I mean that he writes lavishly and artistically with descriptions well-researched, so much so that they have infused into my daily thought. I closed the book, but not the story. Bondurant carved the Irishness/clan-
Ellen Shirley
Jul 15, 2016 Ellen Shirley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fred Bulkington wins a dart throwing contest, the prize is a pub named The Nightjar in County Cork, Ireland. Fred and his wife Elly move, Fred wants to be a novelist and Elly wants to continue with her passion; open-water swimming. Trouble comes, due to the isolationist mentality of the inhabitants of their new home and also other issues I won't go too deeply into.

Overall I enjoyed many parts of this book. Matt Bondurant has a gift for creating such beautifully vivid imagery. It's like crack, I
Dec 23, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Thoughts:
There are so many elements to this book that I'm going to valiantly attempt to get them all.

I was blown away by the prose of this novel. It was lyrical and flowing, which is fitting since the main character, Elly, is a swimmer. Another eye catching, and initially off-putting, was the way the author doesn't use quotation marks to denote conversations. I did get used to it, and once you really get into the swing of it, it makes sense and flows very well - The story is coming from Elly
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The 5 Moons of Tiiana (The Chronicles of Rez Cantor, #1)
  • Chasing Vegas
  • Three Days to Forever (Mac Faraday Mystery, #9)
  • Dark Mind (Emily Stone #3)
  • Shaman, Friend, Enemy (Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman, #2)
  • Not From Around Here
  • Loco Moco (Darby Stansfield, #3)
  • King of Paine
  • Black Throne Conspiracy
  • The Valley of Heaven and Hell - Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette
  • Stealing the Moon & Stars
  • Far Shore
  • Days of Love and Blood
  • Cookie's Case
  • New Orleans Requiem
  • Mers
  • The Foiled Knight
  • A Girl Undone (A Girl Called Fearless, #2)

Share This Book