Review of ‘The Swimming Pool’ by Louise Candlish

From the moment I read the prologue I had high hopes for Candlish’s novel. And to extent those expectations were met… although, not quite in the way I imagined.

The prologue promised a thrilling series of events and a huge amount of threat to the point of view character. And I suppose, in many ways that was what we got. Although, it wasn’t quite the danger I’d envisaged, in fact, even upon finishing the book, I’m not sure I 100% understand why Candlish chose the prologue she did. Largely because as the events in the novel unfold, it doesn’t seem to fit with the plot as it was intended.

For one thing, the timing is implausible. You cannot tell me that Nat made it almost all the way home, saw ‘him’ outside, and ran all the way back to the lido to still make it back as disaster was unfolding, only for ‘him’ to be back at the lido too. Aside from that in the main body of the novel, Nat’s threatening stalker never appears to leave the lido, he stays to help as disaster unfolds, so how on earth did he beat Nat back to her house.

Perhaps, the prologue was some kind of nightmare that Nat has in the aftermath…perhaps it’s all in her head. I don’t know, but one thing I do know is, it makes a very strange choice for a prologue. Sure it was exciting, it set me up for a tense thriller…  It just didn’t set up the thriller that theb unfolded.

This seems to be a problem throughout the novel, for there are a fee plot points that don’t totally add up. The other major one that sticks in my head is that Nat claims that on the day Molly’s phobia inducing accident occurs she thought she saw ‘his’ face. Now at the point this is said, I assumed it was the same threatening man who appeared in the prologue. But as the novel unfolds it becomes clear this isn’t the case. Nat doesn’t even remember the significance of the man who appears in the prologue, so how could his face have haunted her at an event that happened years before the prologue??  Perhaps this can all be explained by Nat incorrectly remembering events, playing to her role as an unreliable narrator. But it reads a lot more like sloppy plot planning to me.

Overall, the lies and uncertainty that cone with an unreliable narrator is done well. We’re never really sure what characters’ intentions are because we’re blinded by Nat’s desire to fit in, to be accepted, to be special. And this leads to us debating certain facts rather than having cold hard evidence to prove things either way. For me that wasn’t a problem. I love an unreliable narrator,  it’s one of my favour literary techniques.  But here, I feel like it’s potential isn’t really lived up to, and all because of a few sloppy plot points.

The climactic twist was very clever. I have to say that. Throughout the body if the novel we’re led to believe we may possibly be heading to one revelation, but right as the truth reveals itself, we realise that what we thought was going on, really isn’t. At least, not for the same reasons we believed. And while this shock came as something of a relief (the ‘twist’ I thought the novel was leading to would, in my opinion, have been way too predictable) and it should have fit with the prologue, it just didn’t. The series of events following the revelation mean that the events of the prologue could never have happened.

So, whilst the main body of this novel was incredibly gripping and a definite psychological thriller, it had an overwhelming feeling of an incomplete redraft. It feels like Candlish wrote her prologue with one plot in mind, and then wrote and redrafted plot to fit in a final revelation in the epilogue and in doing so, rendered her prologue impossible. But never thought to change it.

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