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The J.M. Barrie Ladies' Swimming Society

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,165 ratings  ·  209 reviews
Joey, an overworked New York architect, has come to the Cotswolds to oversee the restoration of Stanway House - the stately home that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. But it hasn't been easy. The local residents aren't exactly welcoming, and then there's the problem of the brooding caretaker, a man who seems to take every opportunity to undermine her plans. She ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by Short Books (first published 2012)
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Average rating 3.35  · 
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 ·  1,165 ratings  ·  209 reviews

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Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
The one thing I hate about Americans writing about the UK is lack of research. Little bits of dialogue or description that jar and pull me out of a story. Some that stick in my mind from this book:
We have milk in our coffee, not cream.
If someone is cooking haggis as a special treat for a Scottish friend, they wouldn't serve it with a green salad, especially not in January - it would be some version of neeps and tatties.
An ambulance driver wouldn't say 'Don't worry Ma'am,' it would be 'Don't
Sep 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
It would be nice if publishers did their jobs these days. There were so many factual errors in this fiction book, I had to consider it a romantic fantasy rather than the chick lit novel it claims to be. Set in England, with a main character from New York City, the author exhibited complete ignorance of British (or for that matter, American) equine sports culture, a situation one might have thought British publishers would catch. They didn't. Early on, at a horse show, Zitwer writes about the ...more
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read a review of this book in one of the broadsheets a while ago and thought it sounded like a lovely and inspiring tale. Oh dear.
It has some lovely observations on friendships and how they can change over distance and time but apart from that I was very disappointed.
It was written by an American which isn't a problem in itself but whoever edited it should be shot! An English grandmother wouldn't offer her grandchild 'cookies'. A Scotsman would never serve Haggis - especially if he was
Apr 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I loved the idea for this story, a cynical New Yorker moves to England and discovers a beautiful home with a connection to the author of Peter Pan and finds her own Neverland while swimming with the women of the J.M. Barrie Ladies' Swimming Society. Unfortunately the book did not live up to its potential for me.

I did enjoy reading about Joey and watching her change and grow while she is working on Stanway House in England. I also loved the swimming society made up of some unique older women who
Sep 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: chick-lit
Hm, this sounded like a bit of fun and I thought it might be at least a little about JM Barrie. But neither was the case. References to JM Barrie were few and far between and irrelevant really. The story was so predictable. I could see this one coming like a freight train. It bore no resemblance to real life and wasn't even interesting chick lit.

Nothing to recommend. It makes me wonder what on earth happens to get books like these onto the shelves in supermarkets where they get massive exposure
Sally Whiteside
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The ladies of the J.M Barrie swimming society intrigued me and I wanted to know more of their stories. I love a good love story but I have to say that on a personal level, I dislike needy women and Joey did get on my nerves at times. All in all though I really enjoyed this book and the authors style of writing.
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
30/8 - Good start so far. The talk of the upcoming renovation of Stanway House (J.M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan by the house) reminds me of the UK shows of ordinary people renovating their newly bought stately and heritage listed homes - Grand Designs, Restoration Home, My Dream Derelict Home et al. I love those shows, so if the book focuses on that part of the plot I'm sure I'll enjoy this just as much. To be continued...

3/9 - A really enjoyable chick-litish book revolving around
Kerry Hennigan
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
The J.M.Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society is far from being an epic, but it IS a delightful, enjoyable debut novel from Barbara J. Zitwer.

Joey Rubin is a New York architect who travels to England’s Cotswolds to oversee the restoration of the historic mansion where J.M.Barrie penned Peter Pan.

Here she encounters a group of intrepid elderly women who daily dip in the freezing waters of lake for health and sheer enjoyment. They invite Joey to join them.

It is a small community in which Joey discovers
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like th I should book but my gosh, I despise the main character so much it's unreadable. Main character us a shallow, whiny, judgmental bitch that you just want to slap. I failed to finish the book, why waste my time on an unlikable character?
Alisoun G
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
One of the silliest books I have ever read!
Louise Culmer
May 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
the title of this book is somewhat misleading. There is very little about J.M. Barrie in the book, except that the American heroine, Joey is supposed to be in charge of renovating an old house with a vague connection to Barrie. She meets a group of feisty old ladies who go swimming in the lake in the grounds of the house, even in January. Joey isn't getting on with her best friend, Sarah, who has married an Englishman and has four children, and different interests now from Joey. Joey meets a ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it
There were some things I liked about this book: the setting, some of the characters, the Barrie connection. There were other things that could’ve been improved: more exploration of the Barrie connection, the suddenness of the romance plot, the attitude of the main character in some cases, THE TYPOS IN THE TEXT (there is never any excuse for this).

It is a cute read but reasonably predictable.
Elizabeth Ducie
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Joey travels from New York to the Cotswolds to manage a renovation project in an old house with links to the author of Peter Pan. A heartwarming story of friendship, loss and learning to get over life's problems. Some wonderful characters. A most enjoyable afternoon's reading.
Alison Smith
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Delightful book: Manhattan career woman meets eccentric elderly English ladies. Recommended. For full review please go to
Karen Barrett
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
A light holiday read. This book is based on a good plot concept which was not always as well-executed as it might have been. A little hurried and/or quick to resolve plot points in places. I was disappointed at the lack of historical information about J. M. Barrie = which might have been incorporated quite easily. It seemed as though his name was used to boost sales without any real investment in research or cleverly incorporating information about him within the narrative. A relatively ...more
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
You may not believe this, but we can look out of our house on Christmas morning and see people swimming in the cold, cold water just a few miles from the place where the English Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m inclined to think that they’re mad, but I do know that they are part of a very old tradition.

Every Christmas Day, since 1864, in Hyde Park the members of the Serpentine Swimming Club have competed in a Christmas day swimming race. J. M. Barrie was a patron on the race and he gave
Lucas Giovane
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much, i thougth that be ok but it's beautiful and amazing
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Readers if you find yourself in need of a sweet, heartwarming romance look no further than The J.M. Barrie Ladies Swimming Society by Barbara Zitwer. Debut author Zitwer is an international literary agent who has previously produced film and written the play, the Paper Doll, and she certainly knows how to pull heartstrings. Joey, a thirty something New Yorker, lands the job of a lifetime when she is sent to the Cotswolds in England to oversee the restoration of Stanway House, the residence that ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it liked it
As I am not an English native speaker, I didn't recognized the criticized details pointed out by other reviewers. For me, the first part of this book has too much names made me confused...

However, overall I enjoyed reading this book, As my copy was given by the author directly during the London Book Fair, which was so grateful, I could feel the author's energy and warmth between the lines.

Personally, my favorite part is chapter 10, particularly page 92, which describes Joey, the main female
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Given its title and subject matter, I wanted very much to fall in love with this book, but sadly, it was mostly disappointing. Characters and relationships are shallow and poorly developed, incidents pass faster than the speed of light and the editing is sloppy in more than one occasion with missing quotation marks and commas aplenty. Also, and this might seem somewhat petty but I don’t care, I have expected a character who is all but obsessed with J.M Barrie and with Peter Pan to pay a visit to ...more
Jay Howard
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful read. Without the elderly ladies it stands up as a good romance. With them it is lifted into a whole other dimension. The MC, Joey, develops wonderfully under their influence. These are feisty ladies, well-rounded characters who know their own minds, are prepared to argue the point, and demonstrate all the little foibles and failings of humans. They have loved and stayed loyal to each other for decades. They teach Joey the real meaning of friendship and, in offering ...more
Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
This could have been a stronger novel if the author had focus less on the main character and more on the various characters in the swimming society. Parallels are drawn to the Polar bear club in the exposition in the earlier part of the novel. But it is their friendship and lives which are more interesting instead of just the depiction of swimming in a cold pond. It felt under-written and certain characters remains shadowy and almost sketched in. This feels like the movie "Steel Magnolias" ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chic-lit, fiction
I was shocked to see the bad reviews on this book. It is a sweet romance and lasting friendships story rolled into one. All the little irritations people had over this book never occured to me. I was too busy wrapping myself in the warmth of a group of elderly women who were friends to the end. I loved how they took Joey into their fold and she was changed by them.

I also enjoyed the romance of the old building and the work to be done. And of course ... the romance between Joey and Ian.

A fun
Desirée Boom
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I want to give 3.5 stars due to all the grammatical errors (isn't there an editor that should spot those?) and some inaccuracies concerning England, London and UK culture. But besides that it's a lovely book with a lot of lovely characters (even the cynical main character Joey is very likeable). I do hope there will be a sequel though, as the story isn't finished and the characters deserve more story.
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I DID IT! First book of BOOKTUBEATHON Done!! I really enjoyed this story! The characters were easy to love and the idea behind it was really amazing. It was a bit slow to get in to but I loved where it went and how it ended.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Light story that was predictable, then unexpected but ended predictably! Nice escapist reading.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-sugar-2019
When a shallow architect, fresh from a breakup, heads to the lovely English countryside to work on a new project at an estate which comes ready-made with a hunky caretaker, what could possibly happen?

I've read a lot of reviews here and other places that despair of the lack of research on British life. The haggis with salad (gasp) for instance, or the nuances of horsemanship (shudder), and those are fair complaints. What I found more jarring and annoying, however, was how few other readers
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Joey is a New York career woman, a talented architect, who is sent to England to work on a project to transform a beautiful and old house in the Cotswolds, where JM Barrie stayed, and say it was where she was inspired to write Peter Pan.

The author's idea of talking about the ladies' swimming society is lovely, and it was one of the highlights of the book. It even includes a manifesto at the beginning of the book. I would like to know more about them, to have seen more of the society and I was a
Linda Amos
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Joey finally gets her chance in the limelight - she's working on a project to restore the house where J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan. Her best friend since childhood, Sarah, has been married to an Englishman for 20 years and they have 4 children, none of whom have ever met Joey. Joey meets Sarah's mother-in-law, who is very welcoming but not everyone is the same. The caretaker, Ian, seems a grumpy man but his daughter is very welcoming. Can she win them over and make friends?
It's a light read and I
Jul 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: romance-fluff
Contrived, poorly executed, one dimensional characters, factual inaccuracies, annoying cultural inaccuracies, poorly edited too...enjoyable enough if you can live with the above, otherwise a waste of time.

A good premise but executed very badly. This author is a literary agent? Scary.

I do not often give a scathing review like this, but it was truly appalling and I'm genuinely annoyed at having my good reading time wasted. The author and anyone else involved in getting it published in this mess
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Barbara J. Zitwer is a graduate of Columbia Film School, has written screenplays and worked as a film producer. She owns a renowned literary agency in New York, where she lives with her husband and her two dogs. Most of her childhood was spent on the beaches of Montauk, and ever since she could not shake the fascination of the whales and the magic of the sea.
“You’re lucky to have such great friends,” Joey said quietly. “Luck has nothing to do with it, dearie. We decided to become friends and to stay friends, through thick and thin, warts and all.” 1 likes
“Ageing is a privilege! Not everybody’s lucky enough to get to do it.” 0 likes
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