I’ve been a fan of Louise Candlish for years and was thrilled to read her last book The Sudden Departure of the Frasers whilst working for her agent at Curtis Brown. She’s an incredible writer and great at creating a tense atmosphere in her books, exploring the darker psychology and emotions that come with women’s fiction. The Swimming Pool caught my eye as soon as I saw it and the content is just as good as the cover.
Louise’s stories are never galloping along, but that’s what makes them so good. They’re so carefully woven and much more about the psychological tension and thrill than anything else. Her pacing is perfect, you’re constantly on the edge of your seat and always at unease. The moment you think you’ve guest her plot twist, she twists it right back and you’re hooked even further. I also love the complexity of her characters, and not just the protagonist and those closest but even the more minor characters – they’re rounded and complete, with hints of a back story making it all very realistic. Also her characters are never perfect, I often find myself disliking her lead female characters because she always exposes their darker side.
In The Swimming Pool we see Natalie start to neglect her family and friends as she becomes obsessed with Lara, the glamorous ‘queen bee’. It was so interesting to see what feels like quite a teenage dynamic played out as adults, with hints of romance between them too. Louise has a great way of reminding readers that mothers are still women, still capable of mistakes and poor choices and secrets. The story is incredibly seductive and intense and the great thing about Lara is that you can see why Natalie loves her, but throughout the book we feel like we don’t even know her. As a character, she’s a genius at getting others to warm to her through over-familiarity and pretentious friendship without revealing anything about herself, and because her lifestyle and ‘perfect’ personality are so attractive, everyone is just drawn to her and you can see both the appeal and the danger.
You’ve also got two or even three storylines running together, the adult relationships and the teenager’s friendships, both dark and both full of secrets as well as Natalie’s past which is shown to you in glimpses.
Louise’s novels are incredibly intelligent and a real examination of human emotion and psychology, I love the uncomfortable feeling I get reading them, like you know something awful is going to happen, it’s just a case of what and when. The suspense is high, the writing is absolutely brilliant and the characters are so interesting, you can just never put her books down. They’re like a literary version of the commercial thriller and though the plot is fantastic, the real genius is the way she presents these characters and their incredibly dark lives in such a twisted and well-thought out way.
It’s sinister, twisted, claustrophobic and haunting – a brilliant read and another top book for Louise Candlish, I have no doubt.