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Swimming Lessons

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  21,934 ratings  ·  2,723 reviews
Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flor ...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Tin House Books
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Nadine in NY Jones Fuller hammers home the point that the reader makes the book, and then she leaves a sort of "make your own ending" to this book, which was clever. May…moreFuller hammers home the point that the reader makes the book, and then she leaves a sort of "make your own ending" to this book, which was clever. Maybe it's Ingrid, and she's alive (that's my take), or maybe it's Flora, or maybe it's some random blonde woman.(less)

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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  21,934 ratings  ·  2,723 reviews

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Emily May
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, arc, contemporary
“It’s difficult to live with both hope and grief.”

I didn't really know what to expect when going into Swimming Lessons. I haven't read the author's previous work - Our Endless Numbered Days - and I couldn't decide from the synopsis whether I was going to get myself into another thriller spawned by the Gone Girl craze, or a quiet contemporary like, say, Everything I Never Told You. I can say confidently now that it's more the latter.

Swimming Lessons is a character-driven novel about a family,
Elyse  Walters
Beautiful - Beautiful - BEAUTIFUL!!! I'm excited to share this book. It's another wonderful book I've read this year - with many terrific qualities!!!

......The gorgeous writing pulled me in immediately.
"Shielding her eyes, Flora look in the direction of the fading headlights: hundreds of creatures lay across the road, a handful of flapping feebly. They may have been baby mackerel. The wind pulled at the open door and Flora yanked it shut, climbed back over the driver seat, and sat staring. Sh
Apr 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is my second book by Fuller and it confirms that she writes the kind of books that I LOVE to read.

SWIMMING LESSONS is a family drama/mystery spanning over decades.
The present timeline follows Flora, who's returned to her childhood home to care for her ailing father. Her mother Ingrid disappeared when Flora was ten years old. Everyone believes Ingrid drowned herself at sea but Flora has never accepted that her mother committed suicide and through Ingrid's POV, written as letters to her hus
Diane S ☔
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 We first meet Flora when she is driving home through the night, a night it rains fishes. Having heard her father has had an accident, she is trying to get to him to make sure he is alright, her sister Nan is there, but Flora has been a daddy's girl, and needs to see for herself. Her mother presumed dead from drowning, though Flora who shared her love of swimming with her mother, never believed her mother had drowned.

I was drawn to this book because of the synopsis, a woman who hides letters
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, fiction
A few years ago somebody told me that in any relationship there is always an "Ernie" and a "Bert" (from Sesame Street, you know?). I am always the Bert and I used to not particularly like that - because being the Ernie is more fun and people tend to like the Ernie's of the world more. Even at 17, I was always the person to tell others to be more quiet at parties as to not disturb the neighbours, I was the one blowing out candles when the drunkest person in the room decided having candles would m ...more
"Swimming lessons" by Claire Fuller tells the story of the marriage between the literary proffesor Gil Coleman and the 20-year-younger student Ingrid. The novel tells the story of mother and daughter in two stories in different times. Ingrid's story is told by Ingrid herself in a letter form, which she hides in His Library. A family history and a nice piece of literature. The end unfortunately disappointed me, here I would have at least a clear attitude wished.

PS: Also worth mentioning is the co
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Dull, undeveloped cookie-cutter characters, boring plot, poorly paced, and lacks tension. It was very readable, somehow, yet I could've stopped at any point without wondering what happened next. Disappointingly mediocre. ...more
There's not much new in the plot of an older professor seducing a young student, who could have easily been his daughter and then through debauchery and a decadent lifestyle pushed her out of his life. She left him with two children, allegedly disappearing after a swim, never to be heard from again.

Ingrid Coleman was the realist, and Gil, her husband, the dreamer. He hanged onto imagination as a prerequisite for his existence, like a tick on a dog. But it is Ingrid, writing their life story in s
Mar 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was so mad after I read this book. The writing was good and moved well, but it was smoke and mirrors disguising the fact that the book was pointless.

Basically, the book alternates chapters between the present, in which daughter Flora comes home to care for sick/aging father Gil, and past, which tells the story of Ingrid (Flora's mother) and Gil's relationship (told through letters, which is usually, and is here, a lazy, flat, and overly-cute way to tell a narrative). Ingrid disappears on a swi
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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"Gil...This is what happened–the facts, the reality. I've always found that reality is so much more conventional than imagination. And over the years I've imagined far too many things..."–Ingrid

This is such a beautifully, heartbreaking book! It's also cathartic and hopeful. If I had known the premise of the book, I more than likely wouldn't have been too inclined to read it. Ingrid's letters to her husband kept me turning pages until the very end. What a dear, dear woman.

I won't spoil this r
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 Stars - Oh my, I loved this book. Didn't want it to end. ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewcopy, read2017, botm
I had a review copy of this book, but still selected it as my pick when it came around as an option for Book of the Month. I read her earlier novel and liked it, and was curious to see what would happen next. This is a little more ordinary of a storyline, about a marriage, the effect of infidelity, the impact of a missing parent on a child even after they are adults. Some of the setting and characters made me think of Fates and Furies (anyone else?)

The novel alternates between chapters in the cu
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Swimming Lessons was an extremely heavy read. Heavy in the sense of the plot, the characters, the grief they were facing due to the fact that the mother went missing and that there's been no closure for years. The only form of sense we have of the mother is through a series of letters she's left behind in different books for her husband. Thus, we get two perspectives: that of Ingrid (the mother) through those letters and her daughter, Flora who is in present time, looking after her father with h ...more
Wonderful writing, great story, interesting style. The book opens in 2004 with Flora rollicking in bed for two days with her current young man when she gets a call from her older sister to come “home” because Dad’s had an accident and is in hospital. Nanette (Nan) is 5 and a half years older and is a stable, reliable nurse.

We learn that their mother, Ingrid, disappeared 12 years ago.

Flora’s chapters are written third-person, as are her father’s. Dad is Gil Coleman, a former professor and no
Jan 30, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[4+] Reading this book was like being swept up by a gentle wave and tossed about - buoyant but never sure where I was going to land. The novel is anchored by Ingrid's letters to her husband, tucked in the books of their library. She disappeared years before and her daughters and their aging father are grappling with the void. The mystery is much more than what happened to Ingrid. It is the puzzle of her relationship with Gil and the unraveling of their marriage. I was transfixed by this eloquent ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Much to like about Swimming Lessons but even more to dislike.

*Fuller's way with words.

*I just spent four days with unlikeable characters:

Ingrid: Wife and passive doormat.

Gil: Husband who betrays Ingrid et al in multiple ways (though I might have betrayed Ingrid myself).

Flora: Daughter - strange. Affected by her mother's disappearance. Well, yeah, but strange before that also.

Nan: Older daughter - caretaker of the family because she has to be but other than that, nothing.

Richard: Flo
Elaine Mullane || At Home in Books
"Writing does not exist unless there is someone to read it, and each reader will take something different from a novel, from a chapter, from a line.

It is true that no two people read the same book; everyone takes something different from what they have read. One thing that is certain, however, is that beautiful writing is beautiful writing.

Swimming Lessons opens with Flora, dressing hurriedly while her boyfriend watches on, having received word from her older sister, Nan, that her father is
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was expecting a mystery but I wouldn't really consider this to be a mystery novel. There's certainly a mystery in the story - Is Ingrid alive or dead and what happened to her that caused her disappearance? The whole story focuses on that mystery but predominantly this book is about people and different relationships. There were quite a few complex relationships at play in this book and every relationship was different. I really enj ...more
Paula K (on hiatus)
Swimming Lessons takes you on a journey through a bad marriage. A professor, Gil, and his student, Ingrid, marry for all the wrong reasons. What’s beautiful about this book is the letters Ingrid writes to her husband, but never gives to him. Instead she hides them throughout the house amongst his over abundant book collection. We get to read these beautifully written letters as the book progresses and find out about Gil’s infidelities and Ingrid’s disappearance.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4 as the
Jessica Reads & Rambles
Swimming Lessons is the kind of book that makes me question every other book I've given five stars to. It's been a while since I've been left with so many feelings after reading a book. I was not prepared to be swept away by this wonderfully written novel and it's rich and complex characters. Events unfold little by little and make you want to read quicker and quicker to find out what happens. There are little nuggets in here that made my heart hurt when I read them. A quiet read in many ways, b ...more
This book is a slow-moving narrative about 2 sisters, a dying father, and a mother who disappeared 11 years ago and the letters she left behind. The back of the book says it is the story of a marriage. Sort of. There is so much about this story that is ambiguous and so many questions it presents that I never found clearly answered. Yet I found it a story that says so much and gave me hints and information from which I had to draw my own conclusions and I’m still wondering if I got the right answ ...more
Swimming Lessons is the book that taught me never to read reviews but to go with my own gut instinct regarding a book. That said...I'm writing a review anyway! I was led to believe that this was mystery and it's not, not really. Most savvy readers will figure out what has happened to Ingrid long before the ending of the book. What it is, instead, is a marvelously and beautifully written tale of two people who loved each other madly but who never should have married. If you're old enough to remem ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Swimming Lessons is an evocative, thought-provoking novel that begins with an intriguing mystery, evolving into melancholy as the events of Ingrid's marriage, the wife of Gil and mother of two young girls who disappeared 12 years before, are revealed.

The novel begins with Gil inside a second hand bookstore, having found a scrap of paper within a books' pages, moving closer to the window to try and read it. It is a letter dated 2 July 1992, which his attention is diverted from when he glances ou
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Told through a series of letters that Ingrid leaves for her husband before her disappearance , Swimming Lessons, dissects a marriage and a woman's life. This is an absolute favourite read this year and if you are someone who has time for very few books, make sure you add it to the list.

What to expect?
- engaging and suspenseful plot
- excellent writing
- occasional symbolisms
- detailed character sketches
- a bit of sarcasm
- clever structure that alternates between past and present
- LOTS of scenes th
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
I was really excited to receive this book through the Book of the Month club subscription service. I had a choice of five books, with brief descriptions of the plot, and I selected Swimming Lessons based on the description. It sounded like a wonderful whimsical journey in time - a woman communicating to her husband across time through letters hidden around the house.

What it turned out to be is a trope-filled run-of-the-mill bland fiction. There is no communication across time, there is just your
RoseMary Achey
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Claire Fuller can write beautiful prose, but there were several flaws in Swimming Lessons.

First I found her characters quite one dimensional. Their lack of emotion to major family dysfunction and turmoil frustrated me as a reader. Second, the characters were extremely unlikeable. Gil, the father was despicable. Ingrid, the mother, you wanted to shake and tell her to wake up! Third, the plot of the older writing professor and his much younger student embroiled in a passionate love affair, only
Dannii Elle
I went into this expecting a thriller and hoping for suspense. This was duly received, but there was also a lot more compacted into this than I had originally anticipated. Yes, there was a mysterious story-line, but the heart of the narrative dwelt on more familial and emotional topics and a lot of what occurred were outside of this genre's usual confines.

What was delivered far surpassed my expectations, making this a top contender for favourite read of the year. Perhaps it is too soon in the ye
Jennifer Blankfein
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written story about a flawed family who's memories and hopes over time get confused with reality. Ingrid, a college student, and Gil, her professor, have an unconventional love affair leading to pregnancy. This forces Ingrid to give up her academic goals in order to marry Gil and raise her two daughters, Flora and Nan. Gil's primary focus is writing and all his family responsibilities are neglected while his relationships go unnurtured. During the couples years together, Ingrid wri ...more
(Nearly 4.5) “It’s about believing two opposing ideas in your head at the same time: hope and grief. Human beings do it all the time.” This isn’t a happy family story. It’s full of betrayals and sadness, of failures to connect and communicate. Yet it’s beautifully written, with all its scenes and dialogue just right, and it’s pulsing with emotion.

Fuller manages her complex structure very well: in the 1990s, Ingrid is writing letters (hidden in relevant books) to narrate the start of her life wit
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So it took a long time for me to come back and actually post the review I wrote way back in the spring when I first read Claire's book! But here is a nicely edited* version thanks to the good folks at the ABA who used it (after cleaning up the messy stilted language) for February's Indie Next flyer:

“With Swimming Lessons, Claire Fuller confirms her place as a writer of exceptional insight and warmth. This tale of a marriage, of a family, and especially of children bearing the brunt of the fallou
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Claire Fuller is the author of four novels: her latest, Unsettled Ground, winner of the Costa Novel Award 2021, and shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction; Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the 2015 Desmond Elliott prize; Swimming Lessons, shortlisted for the Encore Prize; and Bitter Orange longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. ...more

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