“Holly LeCraw’s THE SWIMMING POOL is a complex,
astonishingly well-crafted, and completely compelling debut.”
– ANITA SHREVE, author of Testimony
Now most writers constantly dream that dream but, on her website’s On Writing page, Holly confesses her mixed feelings about whether she wanted to be a writer:
“I think I always did, although often I wouldn’t admit it to myself. It just seemed the height of hubris. I was one of those children who read constantly, constantly–hundreds and hundreds of books. Being a writer just seemed like the most magical, incredible thing in the world to me, and so it seemed delusional to aspire to actually be one. I struggled with that for years.
The author explains:
“What did I do all that time? The short answer is I dithered, and tried to do every legit sort of writing-type thing that wasn’t writing.”
What was her turning point?
“I have heard a number of writers, when asked for advice, say that you should only write if you can’t not write. That is what I spent a number of years proving to myself: I really have to do it, otherwise I’m miserable. As soon as I finally realized that, I buckled down. Whenever I wanted to give up, I just reminded myself that I’d tried that before, and it hadn’t worked.”
This author’s candid revelation of her personal journey might well be the basis for the complex and insightful, emotional storytelling. Although Holly claims that the plot of The Swimming Pool came as a complete surprise to her.
In fact, on the Author Q & A: WRITING THE SWIMMING POOL page, she describes how her backstory evolved:
‘I started off with a brother and sister, who became Jed and Callie. I knew the mother was dead, and I knew that Jed wanted to know who had killed her. At first I thought it was a short story. Then, one weekend, my wonderful husband took our kids down to the Cape to give me some peace, and after I had sat stunned in the silence for a while, I started playing around with those characters. I started asking questions–so, where’s the dad? Hmm, I think he’s dead too. But something is amiss. Not another murder, but a complication…maybe he had an affair. How does that matter? And then Marcella came to me, and the whole thing just opened up.
“That has happened to me before: a story seems fairly straightforward, and then some side character–in this case, the mistress of the father of the protagonist–comes along, and lets me look at it slant. The side character takes center stage, and suddenly the plot is much more layered.”
In other words, the storyline became complicated as the synopsis describes:
A heartbreaking affair, an unsolved murder, an explosive romance: welcome to summer on the Cape in this powerful debut.
Seven summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil’s wife was found murdered—and their lives changed forever. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect.
Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil’s grown son, Jed, returns to the Cape with his sister for the first time in years. One day he finds a woman’s bathing suit buried in a closet—a relic, unbeknownst to him, of his father’s affair—and, on a hunch, confronts Marcella. When they fall into an affair of their own, their passion temporarily masks the pain of the past, but also leads to crises and revelations they never could have imagined.
In what is sure to be the debut of the season, The Swimming Pool delivers a sensuous narrative of such force and depth that you won’t be able to put it down.
Indeed this novel is intense from the start, just read the First Chapter.
Amid all its buzz my Advanced Reader Copy arrived from the publisher in mid-November, yet I waited until bone-chilling cold February to dive into The Swimming Pool and experience the summer sizzler.
In a tale of betrayal, loss, and too many secrets, the story actually begins at a family pool party on Cape Cod. Now please think about that. Why a backyard pool on Cape Cod that’s surrounded by an ocean? Yes it is rare (and oh so symbolic) but the pool was built to be unique and intimate.
Above all, Holly LeCraw’s writing is both elegant and powerful as this novel demands the reader’s unwavering attention. Adultery, murder, and another affair would likely pique interest. Yet it’s the reasons for those events — the characters’ motives — that elevates the book to a level of fascination. And every mistake or misdeed revolves around the human need to belong, to be a part of someone, to be needed.
This need, then, is a heartbreaking obsession that turns into passion? Some would say so, I do not. Because without truth can there be passion and love or simply more secrets? The Swimming Pool with its detailed setting — including the actual feel of heat, humidity, even the sea air — will allow every reader to decide this and more for themselves.
In her beautiful breathtaking debut, Holly LeCraw gives us a “sins of the father/mother” plot with a twist on life. The Swimming Pool — the author’s magical, incredible dream — will be available in bookstores and online retailers tomorrow…awaiting your reading dip into its pages!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Swimming Pool in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 7, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.