The J. M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society by Barbara J. Zitwer
The blurb: Joey, an overworked New York architect, has come to the Cotswolds to oversee the restoration of Stanway House – the stately home that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. But it hasn’t been easy. The local residents aren’t exactly welcoming, and then there’s the problem of the brooding caretaker, a man who seems to take every opportunity to undermine her plans. She soon begins to feel that she can’t do anything right.
Until, that is, she begins to take a daily dip with the members of the J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society in their private, watery Neverland.
They will teach her that it’s not the house that needs restoring; it’s her…
My review: I was drawn to this book by the wonderful cover and catchy title. Expecting something to fill the very large shoes of a book I’d just finished – I Capture the Castle. Unfortunately this brought me back down to earth with a bump.
Joey is an inconsistent character. Heartless and self absorbed with some characters and supposedly kind with others. All her well meaning actions are poorly executed, where as the shallow ones seem to ring true. A very hard woman to warm to, even by the end I was glad to see the back of her. I realise how harsh that is and am pleased to say I don’t ever think that about people in real life! Her depth appeared too manufactured and didn’t counter-point her selfish actions like it should but only served to exacerbate them. A vain, selfish New Yorker who stuck out of this narrative like a sore thumb.
She is a very hard done by character and her revelations on her own character feel fake and strained, especially when she immediately reverts to type. The local residents, as mentioned in the blurb above, are completely welcoming – the description is misleading. After perhaps one frosty glance everyone completely loves Joey and there is no tension with the community as to what will happen to Stanway House. I felt deceived by the description of this book.
The ladies who swam in the pond in the countryside have a whimsical, magical element to them. They’re dialogue is brilliant and they are well-crafted characters. There is some sense of construct here too however, a slightly over-thought out edge, their backgrounds over-sculpted if you like. In essence all the characters in this book are likeable bar the central character which is why I’ve had to give this a low rating.
4 out of 10 stars ****