I just finished two fun summertime reads: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller and How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Both books are written by award-winning British authors whom I’ve never read before, but will read again. Both have very clever plots which grab you immediately.
Swimming Lessons centers on a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind??) where the mother vanishes leaving two young daughters and an estranged husband. The plot develops in two different time periods- the current with grown daughters and aging husband, and the past with the wife’s letters to her husband before she disappears. Ingrid, the wife hides the letters in the husband’s many books. The letters chronicle Ingrid’s perspective of their life together and some secrets. What kind of secrets, you may ask. Well, secrets that give the plot some twisting, winding turns which moves the book along at a nice clip. Things are not always as they seem. Never believe you have it all figured out. A perfect book for a pool-side, cool-drink kind of day.
Matt Haig’s book is one of my favorite types of books- magic realism mixed with a whole lot of history. Tom, the main character suffers from analgesia, a rare condition that prevents bodily death. Although, he looks 41, Tom has been alive since 1581. Yes, he hung out with Shakespeare, sailed the high seas with Captain Cook, drank gin with Scott and “Zee” in Paris during the Jazz Age. The most interesting historical parts are Haig’s descriptions of London through the centuries. So London aficionados will love the descriptions of the old neighborhoods and architecture. Also Tom is a French Huguenot who escapes to England to avoid Catholic persecution in the 16th century. This is a fascinating time in French history. There are two love stories playing out in two different time periods as well as a long-missing beloved daughter. To spice it up even more, Haig adds some pretty sinister characters in every century to torment Tom.
PONDERING: Some historical fiction is more fiction than history. To help judge accuracy, I always check the author’s acknowledgments to see if she/he credits any historians or librarians for information. If you are lucky, maybe the author will mention specific nonfiction historical references. I have found some great books that way. Of course, google is an invaluable resource.
#clairefuller #matthaig #london #britishauthors