Mary-Rose Maccoll is a very versatile writer. She is a regular contributor at the QWeekend Magazine, her non-fiction book, Birth Wars was a finalist in the Walkley awards and she’s also worked as a corporate writer and has now released her fifth novel, Swimming Home. This book is a celebration of two women achieving remarkable things in 1925 and finds the right balance between drama, tension, love and life in a post-war setting.
The story is mostly about Catherine Quick, a talented 15-year-old swimmer who has grown up in Australia. But tragedy strikes and she is left orphaned at this young and difficult age. Her new legal guardian is her Aunt Louisa, a successful career woman and surgeon who lives in London and at first glance is someone who does not appear to be particularly maternal. This event means that Catherine must leave her idyllic island home where she was previously cared for by Florence; an indigenous woman and where they lived happily with the latter’s son, Michael as well as Catherine’s father.
The move from Australia to London is tough on Catherine. The culture shock is huge and it takes some time for this young woman to realise what she really wants: to be free to swim. One day an American investment banker, Manfred Lear Black realises Catherine’s potential and offers her the chance to go to America to train with a professional swim team. He hopes that Catherine will one day be the first woman to swim across the English Channel. But things don’t always go according to plan.
Swimming Home is an excellent character study where Maccoll does an exceptional job of crafting some complex and relatable characters and examining their relationships with one another. It also looks at how some lies (some which may have seemed like innocent little white ones to those telling them at the time) can snowball and have devastating effects on other people around them. It’s ultimately an absorbing and well-researched tale that successfully dips between the past and the present.
Mary-Rose Maccoll’s Swimming Home is a novel that engages the reader thanks to its good use of tension and drama as well as a personal and intimate style of telling the character’s stories. It’s a celebration of women as they pioneered for their own rights and challenged the social expectations of the time. There are lots of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and while the ending felt a little rushed this was still a well-constructed, inspiring and wonderful read about some women who set their sights high and achieved the extraordinary.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/swimming-home/9529760