The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant

Two Americans acquire a pub in southern Ireland and win over the locals with their charm and wit.

Well, not exactly.

Elly and Fred are atypical.  She is a long distance swimmer and lover of literature; he is a writer and philosopher who is larger than life.  Both of them would drink you under the table.  They see the move to Ireland from Vermont as a blessing, a chance to put the memories of 9/11 and family issues aside.  The setting they move to is seemingly idyllic – a coastal town in County Cork with easy access to wild islands and their uncanny beckonings.  Some of the natives are welcoming; others, in particular the large and controlling Corrigan family, see the couple as an intrusion and slowly let their feelings be known.

The Night Swimmer does a great job of expressing the idealism of expatriates in a new world to them.  The book also covers well the disillusionment and the fear of a relationship gradually imploding on itself, and the sinister presence of others who have had their own ways for centuries and don’t tolerate disruptions, no matter how well-meaning.  There’s also a strong tug of an otherworld in the book; when swimming in the ocean, Elly experiences the sea as a living thing, and sees visions, sometimes spiritual and unnerving, occasionally horrific.  The island’s inhabitants also acknowledge a supernatural tinge to their home.  Sightings of ghosts and stories of boats lost at sea, and a set of beliefs in something hidden and older play a strong part in the local folklore.

Good for fans of Ireland who like a spooky yarn.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


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