The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
Doubleday, April 6, 2010
I’m pleased to say The Swimming Pool has lived up to its own hype—and then some. It’s the tangled story of two families linked forever by a love affair and a shocking murder. Marcella Atkinson fell in love with her summer neighbor, Cecil McClatchey, but before their relationship could even get off the ground, his wife was murdered. Seven years later, Marcella’s daughter is hired to nanny for Cecil’s daughter; Cecil is now dead, but his grown children are spending the summer at the family’s Cape house. And then his handsome son, Jed, finds an old swimsuit in his father’s closet, and begins to connect the dots between his father’s affair, his mother’s death and this mysterious older woman, Marcella.
At the bottom of the closet, among the dust bunnies, was a half-crushed shirt box. It felt light, and he opened it expecting to find nothing, or, at most, some old, ill-considered birthday gift. But instead, neatly folded, there was a woman’s bathing suit.
He felt he was seeing it not only with his eyes but with his whole body. A one-piece, plunging neckline, dark blue with vertical white stripes. Almost clownish—but then he lifted it out of the box and held it up by the straps. Yes. He remembered.
How old had be been?—that afternoon by the pool, their pool, when Marcella Atkinson had been stretched out in a lounge chair, alone at the corner of their patio? She had seemed separated from the rest of them, from the party that was going on, not only by a few feet that the chair was pulled but also by her stillness and, Jed had sensed, her sadness. And her beauty. Her perfect legs and olive skin and dark upswept hair had not seemed to belong with the cheerful Yankees in their madras shorts and flowered dresses, grilling fat American burgers and drinking gin and tonics.
We all know that Jodi Picoult writes about complex subjects that affect families: death, disease, disability.
In a recent interview with Forbes, the author talks about the subject for her next book: gay rights. She said:
What's really cool is that I do believe I might be the first mainstream writer to attack this issue, gay rights. That's amazing me to me, but I'm glad I'm doing it. There's a real sense that gay rights is a political issue and not a personal one. I think it's about people, which is why I want to write the book.
In an interview with GLAAD, she elaborated on the plot. It’s the story of a lesbian couple’s legal battle for the right to start a family, a topic with personal significance for Picoult, since her teenage son recently came out.
It’s true that gay rights and gay characters are mostly absent from mainstream fiction. (Alexander McCall Smith has announced that he will support gay rights by introducing homosexual characters into his novels, and David Levithan has addressed gay relationships in YA lit—but can you think of many other authors who write about characters who are gay?) I look forward to Picoult's new book—plus, I’m intrigued by the CD.
Are there other topics you’d like to see Picoult address?
It's March 17, and you know what that means: those who aren't wearing green, prepare to be pinched! If you've chosen not to venture out in search of green beer tonight, we've come up with some suggested reading in several categories that will help you celebrate the Irish spirit.
Nonfiction: BookPage columnist Robert Weibezahl highly recommends At the Edge of Ireland, David Yeardon's charming travelogue.
Fiction: Lots to mention here! Have you read Roddy Doyle yet? Yes? Then you'll have to wait for his next novel to come out in April. Everyone else, try Oh, Play That Thing for a fiery take on the Irish-American experience. Mary Pat Kelly's Galway Bay is another epic that brings the Irish immigrants' tale to life—it was inspired by her own family history. And we can't ignore Maeve Binchy, Alice McDermott and John Banville.
Or go off the beaten path with a very Irish novel that happens to be written by a Dane, Christopher Moerk: Darling Jim is his deliciously creepy American debut. Paul Murray's hilarious An Evening of Long Goodbyes is another standout. And if chick lit is more your thing, don't miss Cecelia Ahern's sparkling stories.
Children's Books: Eoin Colfer is probably the best-known Irish children's author; his Artemis Fowl series has been loved by millions.
Cooking: The New Irish Table by Margaret M. Johnson will give you ideas for tonight's feast.
What's your favorite book with an Irish connection?
An amusing—and a little too close to home—concept is making the rounds among book reviewers today: Book Review Bingo. Michelle Kerns, a literary columnist on Examiner.com, created a list of reviewer clichés, then plugged them into bingo cards. (She writes, “Book reviews that use clichés mean nothing, say nothing, and tell the reader nothing. They're like eating a cream puff when what you really want is prime rib—they're unsatisfying and, ultimately, useless.”)
Here’s one of the cards:
What do you say, book bloggers? Is it unforgiveable to use the word “powerful” in a review? Are you guilty of calling a book a “tour de force?” I’ll go ahead and confess to my own guilt; my most recent feature for BookPage would give a Bingo player several checks (come on—it was epic!).
For more on the subject, check out Salon, GalleyCat and The Boston Globe. Even Ron Charles at The Washington Post is tweeting about Book Review Bingo. Do you have any clichés to add to the list? My vote’s for “compulsively” readable.
I read and wrote about The Solitude of Prime Numbers over a month ago for a What We’re Reading Wednesday blog post. At that time, I had no idea if the book, which has been so popular abroad, would take off in the United States.
Well, it seems that it has: In the past week, Paolo Giordano’s debut has received accolades in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and USA Today—not to mention BookPage, where reviewer Tony Kuehn wrote that the author “deftly creates a sense of loneliness and loss through the use of simple, beautiful language and powerful imagery.”
This Thursday, you can see for yourself what the fuss is about—but you need to act fast. At the Nashville Public Library, there are already seven holds on the first available copy.
While you wait for the book’s release, check out this interview with Giordano. (The author is Italian, although the interview’s in English.) He talks about choosing between physics and literature; dealing with the strangeness of fame; and the satisfaction of writing:
Will you read The Solitude of Prime Numbers?
Several of you had opinions on the iPad last week, so I thought you might be interested in the latest news about a “groundbreaking enriched eBook” (according to Grand Central).
When David Baldacci’s Deliver Us From Evil hits stores on April 20, the eBook will come with behind-the-scenes features in the same vein as a DVD. The features will include Baldacci’s research photos, deleted scenes from the manuscript and an alternate ending. Baldacci himself says the reader will have “a true multi-dimensional entertainment experience.” The complete package is called The Writer’s Cut eBook.
It’s exciting to see how publishers are taking advantage of the eBook platform, although I’m not sure that “Writer’s Cut” eBooks will work with every genre. If you’re an author, what do you think? Would you be willing to provide alternate endings and deleted passages? Readers: Would this additional content attract you to a book?
Once rare, book trailers are now popping up for all but the most obscure titles. It's a wild world out there, so every Tuesday we'll post one—or two—that we consider notable for your entertainment.
This week's trailer is for The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen's third novel, which goes on sale today. Allen's work blends the everyday with the magical, not unlike that of Alice Hoffman. Check out the trailer, and then read our review of the book—a web exclusive.
Also in BookPage: A review of Garden Spells.
Coming to theaters near you this weekend: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, based on Jeff Kinney's best-selling middle-grade series. The movie hits theaters Friday, and the companion book, Movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is in libraries and bookstores today.
Judging from the trailer, the movie looks like a winning adaptation—likely to be a hit with the the 6- to 10-year-old set (and parents wondering how to pass the long hours of spring break).
Related in BookPage: Check out our Meet the Author featuring Jeff Kinney.
A few observations on books and reading after spending a week at the beach:
1. The number one book spotted on the beach/in airports/and everywhere else I looked: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. If you need further evidence that this book has crossed from bestseller into phenomenon territory, take a trip.
2. If you're reading on a Kindle, you have to turn it off during airplane takeoff and landing—a total pain, especially if you've reached an exciting part of the book. If you're reading a good, old-fashioned paper-and-ink version, you can keep reading your book while the Kindle reader next to you squirms anxiously and awaits the announcement that personal electronic devices can be turned on.
3. If your plane hits extreme turbulence over the Atlantic, you won't want to read either your Kindle or your old-fashioned book. You'll want to clutch the armrests with both hands and moan as quietly as possible.
4. Though it's widely reported that women read more than men, this doesn't hold true among travelers. In airports and on the beach, men are just as likely as women to be staring at a book (though the man is more likely to be sound asleep and pretending to read the book).
5. Having a book in your hand is a great conversation starter among strangers.
6. Sand can be used effectively as a bookmark.
Don’t miss this week’s fresh content on BookPage.com. Click the book titles to read more: