Author:  Lucy Clarke

ISBN:  9781451683393

I found Lucy Clarke’s debut novel, Swimming at Night, to be wonderfully fascinating on so many levels. 

First, the story opens with a fascinating premise. Katie is awakened from dreaming about the dark, restless sea by the police ringing loudly and persistently at her door. It’s bad news. Her younger sister Mia has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff on Bali. The next day, Katie receives even more upsetting news.

From the evidence they have, including two eyewitness reports, police believe Mia’s death to be a suicide. But something about that doesn’t set right with Katie. Mia is a free spirit who is drawn to adventure and risk; she enjoys life too much. And Mia is a fighter, and fighters don’t take their own lives; they fight through and win. In a quest to find out what really happened, Katie leaves her home in London to retrace Mia’s tropical trip, using Mia’s personal journal as her only guide. 

In addition to the intriguing storyline, there is the unique creative voice of the author that makes the book a delight to read. In the telling of Mia and her boyfriend’s travels, Clarke writes, “Low-lying fog stalked them down the coast and clung to the sea like a damp cloak obscuring any view of the horizon… It was an impressive coastline—dramatic, weather-beaten, and empty. The space was intoxicating, a physical relief after London where she had felt as if she could never quite catch her breath. Away from the city, away from the memory of who she’d become, it was the first time in months that Mia felt at ease.”

The author seamlessly weaves conflict, dialogue, character, and locale to paint a vivid drama. She and her husband, a professional windsurfer, spend their winters travelling; hence, her ability to write of far-flung and fascinating places with authentic detail. 

Overall, this is a story about feelings and issues that run as deep as the ocean itself. It’s about the complicated relationship between sisters and families. It’s about secrets and discovery. It’s about sadness, loss, and forgiveness. It’s about finding one’s true self, in spite of everything.

I loved every minute reading this novel. It gripped me from the first page and held me captive till the end. Personally, I would prefer for the occasional swear word to be eliminated as I don’t think that added to the authenticity of the characters or the story. But that’s me. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a fascinating story and to anyone who enjoys a beautiful, truly creative writing voice.

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