cover image Swimming Lessons

Swimming Lessons

Claire Fuller. Tin House (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-941040-51-5

“Gil Coleman looked down from the first-floor window of the bookshop and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.” This provocative sentence opens Fuller’s (Our Endless Numbered Days) second novel, and an intriguing epilogue ends it; in between is the story of a woman’s failed marriage. When Ingrid Coleman disappeared from a Dorset beach, her years of swimming alone in the sea are presumed to have caught up with her, but her body is never found. Neither are her letters to Gil recounting their years together, tucked within the pages of books in his library, until that fateful day in the bookstore when he spies one while searching for the notes and marginalia that so fascinated him as an author. The novel unfolds in dual timelines. Ingrid’s one-way correspondence effectively and uncomfortably reveals her unraveling within an unhappy marriage to a selfish man unsuited for fidelity and fatherhood. A present-day story line provides younger daughter Flora’s sometimes less-well-delineated point of view; she returns home to join her sister, Nan, in caring for Gil after he injures himself chasing after Ingrid. Fuller successfully creates two discomfiting narratives, a strong backdrop for the story’s essential mystery. (Feb.)