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Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Swimming Lessons

Early Release
This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait 'til next month to read it.

by Claire Fuller

Quick take

Playing out the various scenarios is almost like a choose your own adventure story for mature adults.

Why I love it

Steph Opitz
BOTM Judge

I imagine that Chick Lit and RomComs are popular genres because they depict the idealized versions of how people think romance should be. We watch them for whatever the opposite of catharsis is '“ it’s all about the look, right there on the surface. Then there are the thrillers and dramas that we read for catharsis and... instruction, maybe? Like, it’s a bit of an emotional purge, but also more of an instruction manual for avoiding what you don’t want in a relationship. Swimming Lessons is the latter.

Reading this drama was a helpful reminder of what I don’t want in my relationship. Ingrid, our protagonist, is losing herself as she is swept away in romance with a charismatic man. Her husband, a famous and well-respected author, has most of the agency in this relationship, and an unplanned pregnancy steers Ingrid off course from her life goals. And then, of course, there is Ingrid’s disappearance under mysterious circumstances that may or may not be related to her thwarted ambitions. So, you know, life lessons and intrigue.

BOTM spoke with the cast of Showtime's The Affair about why complicated relationships make for great art. Watch the video here.

Ingrid’s life story reads like a cautionary tale for my own life. My handsome husband is on a plane back to the U.S. from a work conference, I’m seven months pregnant, and we impulsively bought a puppy two weeks ago (insert joke about nesting). I don’t want to lose myself '“ my passion for reading, my career '“ as family obligations grow all around me (literally). And that’s why Swimming Lessons struck a chord for me: ultimately it’s about a couple whose individual ambitions complicate their relationship in ways that are both relatable and devastating.

Ingrid ultimately gets control over her destiny, and although it’s complicated, it’s a big part of the joy of reading this book. Through salacious letters scattered throughout the book, Ingrid finds a way to tell her story. As I read, I found myself asking whether Ingrid is getting closer to what she wants or moving further away. The reader is asked to play a large role in deciphering whether or not Ingrid is dead, or if she simply left and started over. Playing out the various scenarios is almost like a 'œchoose your own adventure' story for adults. For me, Ingrid’s story, voice, and perspective, makes for a haunting, motivating, and fantastic read.

BOTM spoke with the cast of Showtime's The Affair about why complicated relationships make for great art. Watch the video here.

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Member thoughts

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All (3178)
Love (1138)
Like (1632)
Dislike (408)
3348 ratings
  • 34% Love
  • 49% Like
  • 12% Dislike
  • Lexington , KY

    Such a thought provoking tough read. I throughly enjoyed but it brought about many feelings. My mom passed from pancreatic cancer and having gone through miscarriages it was just hard to read at times

  • Baltimore, MD

    Loved the format of this book, and especially Ingrid's letters. I didn't really like Flora much, but really enjoyed the book. Weird that I took it as a feel-good book when it wasn't feel-good at all..

  • Silverdale, WA

    The feeling created by setting/characters kept a cup of tea in my hand the whole time I read this one. The perfect combination of eerie and charming; I wish there were more like it. Strong characters.

  • Chicago, IL

    This was so good. The ending had me feeling so many feelings. I think this book made me think about the complexity of marriages and how that impacts the children. I absolutely recommend for bookclub.

  • Mableton, GA

    In Swimming Lessons, we alternated between the story of two women coming together to take care of their ill father and letters written by their mother to their father when he was absent from their fam

  • New Albany, OH

    Loved this. Enjoyed the short chapters in which some made me laugh and some made me angry! The ending made me want a sequel! Really enjoyed this read overall and plan to buy more of the author's books

  • Tamiment, PA

    So well written. Beautiful, creative language & phrasing. The author lets readers use their brains, instead of spelling everything out for them. Compelling, brilliantly told. Unputdownable. Fabulous!

  • Jacksonville, IL

    I love storylines that alternate in some way and Swimming Lessons does this with a present day plot involving 2 sisters and their elderly father and letters from from their absent mother in the past.

  • San Diego, CA

    The book starts & ends in cyclical fashion -- a man at the end of his life; his two daughters embarking on adulthood & their mother has disappeared mysteriously. In the end, this didn't disappoint.

  • White Plains, NY

    Loved this book and back and forth from past to present. Fuller did a great job of keeping the story interesting from different perspectives, though I thought there'd be a breakthrough at some point.

  • Greenwood, DE

    Beautiful. Simple and endearing. The pages take you on a journey. I truly loved getting to know a woman that was someone different to her friends and family and then discovering the man she married..

  • Largo, FL

    I'm a girl that's all about structure. I loved the structure of the text and of the plot in Swimming Lessons. I found myself yearning to read more letters from Ingrid the whole time! Definitely loved

  • Foley, AL

    Really, absolutely loved this book. A brilliant read and could not put the book down. I had so many emotions throughout the story. It was a great insight into a crumbling marriage and so suspenseful!

  • Somerville, MA

    Swimming Lessons was wonderfully written; I enjoyed the format of the alternating chapters. You have to read through to the end to get back to the beginning - it made me want to re-read immediately.

  • Mt Clemens, MI

    This was my New Year's Eve. I loved the characters and really enjoyed how the story went from letters to character perspective. I kept expecting something that didn't happen and I was very pleased.

  • Fitchburg, WI

    It took me a while to get into - but once I started connecting with the characters, I couldn't put it down. Even at the conclusion, I still don't know what happened to Ingrid...but that's the point!

  • Washington DC, DC

    Beautiful pacing & outline for such an intimate/real plot line on love. Thoroughly enjoyed the abrupt ending as it felt very authentic/true. The realist vs. dreamer tension was a pleasure to follow.

  • Wichita, KS

    I couldn't put this book down. I couldn't help but feel all the anger, love, infatuation, desperation,and desire of its the players. I left their world hoping each them found what they wished for.

  • Philadelphia, PA

    I really enjoyed the way Claire Fuller wrote this book. The way it takes you from the present to the past; a past that Nan knew but Flora didn't realize. I really enjoyed the sarcasm and the humor.

  • Beverly Hills, FL

    I thought the writing was awesome and very thought-provoking. As a woman heading into my mid-60s I found a lot about this novel that I could relate to...especially finding myself pregnant at age 40.

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