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The Swimming Pool Season (2003)

The Swimming Pool Season (2003)

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3.47 of 5 Votes: 4
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0099428253 (ISBN13: 9780099428251)

About book The Swimming Pool Season (2003)

Oh what do we do with Rose Tremain? She either writes absolute corkers - Restoration, The Colour, The Road Home - or she misses the mark by a country mile - and yet the makings of a great book are hidden in there somewhere. Her better books are her later books, which is encouraging - and also those books that tend to concentrate on the story, or the journey, of one person, as opposed to an ensemble cast which takes a while to come together.This falls very much into the latter camp. The first half or more of the book stumbles around like a poor man's soap opera, introducing more and more characters, many of whom even by the end of the book you are still not only wondering who they were, but what actually they were doing there at all. "The Swimming Pool Season"'s case is complicated even further by the fact that there are actually two soap operas going on simultaneously here - one in rural France, the other in Oxford - with very little real interplay between the one and the other.But, like all her books, it is dotted with little slivers of gold, small comments on the state of mankind that make you realize that the almost painful at times non events that make up the book are a bit more than a superficial soap opera.Why do people read books? To be educated about life? To find enlightenment on something or another? To be entertained? This book manages to do all three - but in far too small doses, and it takes far too long to achieve it.You stick with Rose Tremain books until the end though, because you know they'll get better eventually. However, you also know that this one, like too many other of her books, will become completely unmemorable in a few weeks time.So frustrating - but I still have another two or three of hers to read - and I'll read them all!

Poetic, literary and stuffed with French people, this read like Joanne Harris with A’levels. The title’s swimming pools are built by the (nominally) central characters Larry and Miriam, whose building firm went bust and who are now living in rural France. They are only the nominal central characters as the omniscient narrator casts its eye wide, taking in such peripherals as Miriam’s mother’s late husband’s ex scholar’s girlfriend. So many characters, many of them romantically involved with more than one other character, and yet only an average length book. Each has a relatively small opportunity to shine, and as such the depth of detail invested in each character is impressive, but I found the book overall to be dry and (aside from Nadia’s wobbly grammar) lacking in humour. Aside from urging Larry to tell his wife to s*d off I felt little sympathy or connection with any of them. Well written but ultimately a bit dull.

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As a reader, I found the extremely intense prose, the immense detail and the large cast of characters frustrating. It nearly put me off reading it. But as a writer, I loved the prose - some of Tremain's descriptions of people and settings set an example to any of us who aspire to improve our game. There are so many points of view, sometimes in adjoining paragraphs with no line breaks; there are so many unhappy people interacting with each other often for no apparent reasons; but there are also many pages of superbly phrased writing and astute character descriptions that I should aspire to emulate.
—Felicity Price

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