This psychological thriller is set in a heatwave in a suburb of London and the story is told from Natalie’s viewpoint. Natalie is married to Ed, they are both teachers and they have a 13 year old daughter Molly who has suffered with aquaphobia since an accident as a child.
The story revolves around a swimming pool, Elm Hill Lido which has recently been restored and re-opened – a cause championed by Lara Channing, a beautiful rich and glamorous failed actress who has recently moved into the area.
It’s hot, it’s summer and Natalie starts attending the pool and is befriended by Lara and welcomed into Lara’s circle of friends. Soon Natalie is spending her days with her new friends, not only at the pool, but also at events organized by Lara. This leads to tension in Natalie’s marriage and between Natalie and her original friends.
Water is a dominant theme throughout the book whether it’s to do with the Lido or Molly’s aquaphobia, something that Natalie feels responsible for. Whilst a swimming pool (and the life of an actress) can conjurer up thoughts of glamour and decadence it is also a place of danger and this is played and built upon throughout the book.
The prologue is intriguing, there is a secret in Natalie’s past that her husband is unaware of and Natalie is constantly fearful that her past will catch up with her, and it does. There is also something sinister and suspicious about the friendship between Natalie and Lara and the way in which Lara and her friends start to dominate Natalie’s life. There are various twists and turns throughout the book and a surprising, and therefore unexpected, twist at the end.
There are a lot of things about this book which should make it a page turner and yet it was not well received by the reading group. The story swung repeatedly between different time-frames which was distracting and at times confusing, the characters were not likeable and there were large parts of the book which were slow and plodding.
Had it not been a recommended read for the book club a number of us would have given up half way through. It scored between 5 and 7 the latter higher score purely based on the unexpected twist at the end.
Reviewed by Clapham Library Crime and Thriller reading group – July 2016