It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan: published as an e-book on 6th May, it’s now available for kindle via Amazon, for Kobo, via Google Play and Apple. Prefer a paperback? Only a couple of days to wait – it’s out on Thursday 13th May, available via Amazon, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, Easons (Ireland only), or by ordering from your favourite local bookshop. My thanks to Vicky at Aria for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (and the finished paperback, which looks totally gorgeous on my shelf!).
This is Faith Hogan’s sixth book – I’ve been telling people about her wonderful writing for longer than I can remember, and every single book she writes immediately becomes my new favourite. If you haven’t read her books before, you’ll find reviews here on Being Anne of all the others – My Husband’s Wives, Secrets We Keep, The Girl I Used to Know, What Happened to Us? and The Place We Call Home. In fact, should you look more closely, you’ll find that there have been quite a few times when I’ve shared my review more than once – she unfailingly writes books I’ve loved, and I haven’t been able to resist adding my voice to every new tour for one of my favourite authors. But this time, she’s almost managed to leave me lost for words – let’s take a closer look…
Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.
‘Uplifting, emotional and brimming with warmth and humour’ – Cathy Bramley
When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.
As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.
In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together…
From bestselling Irish writer Faith Hogan, The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is an emotional story about finding new friends and living life to the fullest, that will appeal to fans of Sheila O’Flanagan, Heidi Swain and Liz Fenwick.
This is the book – the one that will finally make everyone understand why I’ve always been so passionate about Faith Hogan’s writing. In fact, there’s almost no need to write a review – it would be enough to just place the book, with its glorious cover that promises so much, into your hands and let you read the first few chapters. Whatever the books you usually read, whatever your age, whatever might be happening in your life, you will love this book every bit as much as I did – and that’s something I’ve never been so certain about.
At first, this is Elizabeth’s story, her life falling apart after the death of her doctor husband – not through grief, as theirs was never the most loving or conventional of marriages, but because she discovers that he’s left her with life-changing debts through his drinking and gambling. But she is fortunate to have a close friend she can confide in as she contemplates her past and the uncertain future – and Jo is also able to help in a practical way. Her daughter Lucy is taking a much needed break from her pressurised job in A&E, a breathing space she’s never really taken to recover from the end of her marriage, spending time with her mother while she decides what to do next with her life, and she steps in for a while to run the doctor’s surgery in Elizabeth’s Georgian house on the hill.
Ballymore is the last place on earth that Lucy’s son Niall wants to be – he’s very much a city boy, and although his young life has been far from perfect he wonders how on earth he’s going to survive in the back of beyond. And then there’s Dan – forced to abandon his high-flying life in London as a screen writer, he’s taking some much-needed time to lick his wounds and write his novel, but has also chosen to come to Ballymore for some compelling personal reasons.
The three women become firm friends, and Jo introduces them to her passion for swimming under the stars – the sheer exhilaration, the release, the opportunity to laugh and cry and shed their troubles as they shed their clothes, their friendship deepening with every dip in the ocean. And when it turns out that Jo has significant problems of her own that eclipse Elizabeth’s, that friendship deepens as they plan one big milestone that they’re all able to focus on – a charity event for a cause very close to their hearts, with all the women of the village coming together for one enormous (and naked) midnight swim.
Goodness, I do hate retelling a story – I can’t begin to convey just how wonderful it is, and I do feel I’ve rather squeezed the life out of it. What I really want to talk about is how this book made me feel – it’s all about the female friendships, but captured and told in a way I found so intensely moving. I read the book in one sitting, and nothing on earth could have made me leave the cocoon of love and support that the author created until I’d turned the final page. In so many ways, it’s an incredibly sad story – I had a lump in my throat from the halfway point, and then the tears started. But there’s absolutely no manipulation – it’s just a book where you come to care so deeply for its characters and their relationships that they become women you love, that you know so intimately, and every hurt and setback becomes something you feel at your core.
There is plenty of lightness too, the whole book perfectly balanced – there were so many moments that made me smile, and others when I found myself laughing out loud (the night when Dan discovers how they spend their nights will particularly stay in the memory). And there are so many other strong threads to the story, all impacting on the women’s lives – Dan’s work on his novel and the possibility of his quest reaching resolution, difficult decisions to be made over Niall’s future, the evolving plans for the surgery. The storytelling is entirely compelling, the characters so very real and relatable, the setting so vivid, and the whole book just feels just like the best night you could ever spend watching a great film – where you return to your own world at the end, blinking into the light, wiping away the tears, overwhelmingly empowered and uplifted, flooded with emotion, feeling so very privileged to have spent time with these wonderful women. And as well as that female friendship and closeness, there’s a really compelling theme of finding “home” – which is so much more than where you might choose to live, and more about where your heart really belongs.
This is, without question, one of the best books I’ve read this year – emotional and compelling, all-consuming, life-affirming and uplifting, and the strength of the characterisation and the sheer quality of the writing took my breath away. I’ll never forget how Elizabeth, Jo and Lucy and their love for each other made me feel. You really must add this wonderful book to your reading list – it’ll be a decision you won’t regret for an instant.
About the author
Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring. She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!
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