“Swimming at night” by Lucy Clarke – Book Review

Image“People go traveling for two reasons: because they are searching for something, or they are running from something”.

Sometimes it is for BOTH those reasons.

This debut novel by Lucy Clarke is a study in what it means to be a sibling. The complicated love-hate relationship that follows us from birth onwards.  Whether the siblings are very similar, or as different as ‘chalk and cheese’, we are expected to love unconditionally, accept the others’ faults, and remain loyal whatever the consequences to ourselves.

Katie and Mia couldn’t be more different.  Katie, a straight-laced traditional young woman with intense loyalties and a strong work ethic.  And Mia, a bohemian free-spirit who lives in and of the moment.  Although they had a close relationship when they were small, adulthood has emphasized their differences and there is a deep rift between them.

When Katie gets word that Mia’s body has been discovered in Bali, a suspected suicide, her world is forever changed.  Feelings of guilt over their estrangement compounded with the fact that suicide is so out of character for Mia cause Katie to make the profound decision to leave her orderly life in London behind to retrace Mia’s journey. She hopes that she will gain insight into Mia’s reasons for her tragic and inconceivable death.

Leaving her fiance and job behind in London, Kate leaves on her journey armed with only Mia’s backpack and travel journal for company.

Many adventures await Katie on her journey. Distraught and introspective –  Katie slowly follows the exact route that Mia took and page by page reads her travel journal to gain extra insight into what spurred Mia to end up as she did…

Family secrets are revealed.  Betrayals are exposed. Still Kate travels on.  Leaving more than just her stolid life behind, she begins to discover herself in ways previously not thought of.

As a not very well traveled reader, the exotic locales of the novel evoked the travel experience with excellent descriptions of people and places.  The relationship between the sisters was one which exemplified the strong bond shared by siblings the world over.  With an added bonus of a ‘twist’ at the end, this novel will appeal to readers of the mystery/suspense genre as well as those who prefer ‘chick lit’.  The pages seemed to turn themselves. Kudos to Lucy Clarke for an outstanding read!

F 4 star

After reading the novel, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions for Lucy Clarke.

I share them here with you…

The author’s blurb on the back of the book states that you spend your winters traveling.  Have you visited all the places mentioned in the book? If so, did you follow the route taken by Mia and Katie?
When you travel do you keep a journal?

All the settings within the novel are places I’ve visited. My husband and I are passionate travelers and spend as much of each winter as we can abroad. He is a professional windsurfer, so we are both lucky enough to be able to take our ‘offices’ with us. Over the past few years, our travels have taken us to Chile, Hawaii, Western Australia, Tasmania, Fiji, New Zealand, Bali, Canada, the US and Europe.Image

            I keep a travel journal whenever I’m away. There’s something delicious about arriving in a country, parking myself on a beach, in a café, or at a hostel, and turning to the first page of a fresh journal. I love to record thoughts and memories of interesting experiences and my travel journals are also a useful research tool when I’m back in the UK and writing about far-flung places. In fact, the idea that sparked Swimming At Night – and the novel I’m currently working on – came from notes in my own travel journals.

Have you ever parachuted out of a plane?

I have. I was eighteen and had left the UK to travel up the west coast of America with my best friend, Fliss. We headed inland for a few days to explore Nevada and, whilst there, decided to throw ourselves out of a plane at 12,000 feet.

Do you have a sister?  If so, did you base the Mia/Katie relationship on your own experiences?

I have an older brother who I’m close to, but no sisters. I think this is why I‘ve always found the bond between sisters so fascinating. When researching and writing the book, I spoke to lots of women about their relationships with their sisters and what struck me was the complexity of their feelings towards one another. There seemed to be degrees of competitiveness, admiration, jealousy, and protectiveness – but what always stood out was the love between sisters. This became my driving force in drawing Mia and Katie’s relationship. Over the course of the novel I hoped to show that, despite the pain Mia and Katie cause each other, ultimately their love and bond as sisters is what prevails.

Would you like to see your novel made into a movie — or would that somehow diminish your work?
If you would like to see it made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
(I cast Matthew McConaughey as Noah ; Yvonne Strahovski  as Katie ; Timothy Olyphant as Finn and Emily Blunt as Mia)

I think it would be incredibly exciting to see my novel as a movie (although I’m sure I’d find it hard to let go of my creative hold and hand it to the script writer and director!). I love your ideas for casting – I think I’ll go with them!

Who are your favourite novelists?  What genre of novels do you prefer to read?

I have many favourite novelists and read across a variety of genres. For the past few years I’ve been keeping a list of all the books I read, including a note of what I thought about each. Glancing back at this, my favourite reads in recent years include Breath by Tim Winton, When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman, Rough Music by Patrick Gale, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway and everything ever written by Anita Shreve, Maggie O’Farrell and Sadie Jones.

What made you decide to take the plunge and write your novel?   Is it something you’ve always wanted to do? or, was there some other precipitating event?

It wasn’t so much a case of something or someone inspiring me to become an author, rather it was a desire within me that took time to find. I always assumed I’d have a career in business and I pushed aside all the signals that I’d perhaps make a good writer: I’ve always kept diaries and journals; I read voraciously; I studied English Literature at university; I’m at my happiest with a notebook and pen in my hand. 

I was about 24 when I realized that I’d love to be a novelist. Then there was the small matter of actually doing it. Like most people, I had to work to support myself whilst trying to make it happen, so I set up a small business delivering events in schools, which afforded me both an income, but also a flexible schedule so I could always make time to write. It took me until I was 30 to sign my first book deal. I sold my business and am grateful daily for the luxury of now being a full-time novelist.

Did it take you a long time to get published?  How did you find that experience?

Finally being published is an absolutely incredible feeling! I’m fortunate enough to have sold my novel in the UK, US, Canada, Brazil, Germany, France, Holland and Italy. Even now there are times when I still don’t quite believe it. Like most writers I’ve accumulated quite the collection of rejection letters and, at times, it’s been a battle of sheer will to keep believing in myself and my writing. When my previous manuscript was rejected, I asked my agent what I should do. She said, ‘You take a deep breath and start your next one.  So I did – and wrote Swimming At Night.’


Lucy Clarke and her husband, a professional windsurfer, spend their winters traveling and their summers at their home on the south coast of England.

Swimming At Night, will be out in hardback on 12 March 2013, published by Simon&Schuster.

Lucy will also be taking part in an online book club Twitter chat about “Swimming at Night” on April 10th at 6:30pm.

You can find out all the details of the chat by following @BookaliciousCA

or on Wanda’s blog http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/wanda-lynne-young-bookalicious.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in author interviews, Authors, Book Reviews, debut novels, Fiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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