All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green

on September 18, 2019

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle 
Sophie Green
Hachette AUS
2019, 425p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

It’s the summer of 1982. The Man from Snowy River is a box office hit and Paul Hogan is on the TV. 

In a seaside suburb of NSW, housewife Theresa Howard takes up swimming. She wants to get fit; she also wants a few precious minutes to herself. So at sunrise each day she strikes out past the waves.

From the same beach, the widowed Marie swims. With her husband gone, bathing is the one constant in her new life.

After finding herself in a desperate situation, 26-year-old Leanne only has herself to rely on. She became a nurse to help others, even as she resists help herself.

Elaine has recently moved from England. Far from home without her adult sons, her closest friend is a gin bottle.

In the waters of Shelly Bay, these four women find each other. They will survive shark sightings, bluebottle stings and heartbreak; they will laugh so hard they swallow water, and they will plunge their tears into the ocean’s salt. They will find solace and companionship in their friendship circle, and learn that love takes many forms.

This is the September read for an online bookclub I am a part of and because the year is going so quick, I only realised the other day so I quickly put in a request at my local library and the book, although checked out until late in the month, was miraculously returned and waiting for me within days. I ended up reading it the day I picked it up, just to make sure I was super prepared for the up and coming discussion!

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is set focusing around a small beach town beginning in the spring of 1982. Mother of 2 Theresa has made the decision to take up ocean swimming each morning. She’s a busy mum with a lazy husband who thinks she has let herself go so the only time she can really fit this into her life is at dawn. It isn’t long before she spots Marie, a woman in her 60s who also swims every morning. Marie is a proficient swimmer who has been swimming in the ocean every day for decades. It’s something she used to do with her husband but now that she’s a widow, Marie is on her own again. They begin swimming together, Theresa behind Marie and soon they are joined by Elaine, an English woman who has moved to Australia with her husband. They met and lived their married life in England but now he’s wanted to return home and with their children grown and doing their own thing, Elaine finds herself at a loss in her new country. She doesn’t seem to fit in, until she helps with a rescue at the beach and meets Theresa and Marie. Last to complete the group is Leanne, a young nurse who has only just learned to swim. Although she agrees to swim with the group perhaps for safety reasons, Leanne is determined to hold herself apart and give nothing away. A painful past means she relies on herself and trusts no one.

I really enjoyed this story. Each of the women have interesting backstories and different personalities and the way in which they come together is not this amazing gelling and automatic friendships. They are all prickly in some ways, some more than others, they have misunderstandings and moments where they don’t want to share. They have Theresa who helps bind them all together with her exuberance and friendly personality. The women are in different stages of life – Leanne is the youngest, single, Theresa is about my age, in her late 30s with two children and a husband that needs a royal kick up the backside. Elaine is older, one of her sons is at uni, the other graduated and working and Marie should be enjoying life with her husband after his retirement, however he passed away several years ago, which has left her cash strapped and at a loss with life. Swimming becomes the anchor for all of them and they confide more and more in each other as they spend more time together. And when tragedy strikes one of them (also again, a book that contains my greatest trigger!), the other three pull together with such determination and strength and love in order to help and keep that person’s every day life afloat. I found that the way the story revolved around each lady really gave a strong picture of all their lives. I really appreciated the way the slow bond between the woman formed, and how strong it became. They broke down a lot of barriers within themselves and each other to create something between four women who didn’t have a lot in common to begin with, except swimming.

There’s a lot of charm to this book, it’s a feel-good (despite the elements of sadness and some uncertainty about the future) story with warmth and a really lovely friendship. Women supporting each other without judgement (in some case, learning not to judge, or to let go of the urge to judge) and just being there for each other in many different ways. They each bring something to the group and each come to lean on the other women for emotional support. The friendships become so important to them and quite often it highlights how support from other areas is lacking in their lives. They have created their own village so to speak and it was really lovely to read about that.

I found this a delightful and easy read, a good way to pass a spring afternoon. I have a copy of Sophie’s first book, The Inaugural Meeting Of The Fairvale Ladies Book Club in audio but I don’t really have a lot of luck with audio books – I lose concentration too easily so I think I will have to get myself a print copy.


Book #143 of 2019

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is the 61st book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

2 responses to “Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green

  1. I thought this was lovely too.

  2. […] The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green. My review. […]

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