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The Night Swimmer (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic Series) Hardcover – Large Print, May 23, 2012

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Product Details

  • Series: Thorndike Press Large Print Basic Series
  • Hardcover: 492 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (May 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1410447316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1410447319
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The premise suggests Under the Tuscan Sun: two Americans win a pub in Ireland and set about restoring the building and getting to know the locals. But there’s no sun here, either in the sky or in the hearts of the characters. Fred dives into his new life as a pub keeper while his wife, Elly, dives into the sea, obsessed with the otherworldly experience of open-water swimming. Soon Elly, when she’s not in the water, becomes enmeshed in the clannish rivalries on a nearby island, and Fred, his pub shunned by the locals, is drinking more Guinness than he’s serving. Bondurant, author of The Wettest County in the World (2008), uses the forbidding landscape of the southern Irish coast, blasted by wind and rain and always in the grip of the ocean, “a kingdom of darkness and cold,” to generate remarkable tension, both psychological and somehow atmospheric, as Fred, Elly, and the warring locals swerve ever closer to the inevitable conflagration. It’s a long journey from the Tuscan sun to Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, but Bondurant makes it feel as natural as the incoming tide. --Bill Ott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A “powerful book….Cheever by way of Mario Puzo and Jorge Luis Borges.” —New York Times Book Review

"Bondurant has given us a group of characters full of life and danger....This is a story that will stay with you." —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Bondurant has written another nervy, robust and suspenseful novel.” —Austin American-Statesman --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

It is a love story, and opens us to the inner lives and secrets of the Irish.
Kathleen Reilly
Fred toils away at a novel only a trained cryptologist could write while Elly makes dangerous ocean swims, dreaming of reaching the lighthouse island of Fastnet.
Jennifer Orth-Veillon
I was hoping for the author to tie up loose ends in the epilogue, but was left hanging on several character's outcomes (Sebastian, O'Boyle/Ariel, Highgate).
T. L. Preble

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have now read two of Matt Bondurant's three novels. I hate coming to this conclusion, but I think they're just not for me. We're simply not on the same wavelength somehow. The descriptions always sound interesting and intriguing, but then the book winds up a disappointment for me.

The Night Swimmer is the story of Americans Fred and Elly, but it Elly who is the first-person narrator. The novel's lengthy prologue ends on this ominous note:

"This is hard to describe now. I will have to carefully measure the tone. In my mind, it is a story without words, only the shrill cry of heartbreak. I think of how much time I spent with my head in the water, swimming long stretches of the lake or the churning green sea. I think of what happened on that windy shore, the broken harbor, a small pub on the edge of the world, and I am ashamed."

The catalyst for the tale is a contest held by a beer company. Fred bests all competition to win ownership of a pub on the Irish coast. The couple believes it to be a dream come true, and chance to make a fresh start at simpler lives. And at first they're happy, Fred spending his time in the pub, and Elly pursuing her passion for open-ocean long-distance swimming:

"As I read these horrid accounts, I strangely felt all the more confident of my ability to make the swim to Fastnet. I just knew it wouldn't happen to me. It couldn't. It was as if these other people had engaged in some kind of tragic wager with the sea, putting up their lives on a foolish bet, and lost. But for me it wasn't like that. It wasn't about odds, or my natural ability. The ocean was not my adversary. The sea would never destroy me."

It's hard to say when things got ominous, but that they did.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By stephiona on June 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I just devoted a few hours of my time to reading The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant, and I find myself really disappointed and annoyed. Am I the only one who feels like Mr Bondurant had no clue how to end this novel? For the majority of the story, his plot chugs along nicely-with a strong main character and descriptive setting. Conflicts arise (some believable, some, not so much) and then....go nowhere at the end. What was the significance of the picture slipped under the door, who was in it? Why does Elly have to go back immediately, and for what? What was the drugging about ? She runs around in the storm visiting people and nothing happens to straighten out the plot lines or explain ANYTHING!
This feels like a book that could have used one more good editing session to knock out a few unnecessary characters and to give the island section a more coherent backstory. In the acknowledgements section at the end of the book, Mr. Bondurant said that it took 8 years to write The Night Swimmer. One would think he would have figured out a satisfactory conclusion in all that time. This book reads like a gothic mystery but without the big reveal at the end.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By T. Dotts on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Books captivate readers for a number of reasons. Maybe it's a character that reminds you of someone you know or someone you want to know. Maybe it's a setting that you've always dreamt of. Maybe the plot engages your attention fully, refusing to let go even as it twists and turns.

If you're lucky, a book captivates you because of its author's voice and its author's awareness of how to build character relationships and how to maintain suspense. Readers of Matt Bondurant's The Night Swimmer can consider themselves among the lucky.

Bondurant centers his story on an American couple who win a pub in Ireland. Many people might take the cash equivalent of the prize, but Elly and Fred make the decision to leave everything and everyone they know behind. As Fred restores the pub in Baltimore, Elly spends her time swimming in the waters off Cape Clear Island.

Elly has a minor genetic abnormality (an evenly distributed, thin layer of fat) that allows her to spend long amounts of time in cold water. Her communion with the ocean is one of the strong points of Bondurant's writing, likely because he is a long-distance swimmer himself.

A side note - the locations in The Night Swimmer are real, and images are available on the web if Bondurant's word paintings make you want more.

Another strong point of the novel is the bond between Elly and Fred. Bondurant doesn't describe their love in over-the-top prose. He lets his characters' actions speak for themselves. It's clear these two love each other, which makes it slightly confusing when events of the novel begin to overtake their relationship.

Elly and Fred begin to feel the power of the Corrigan family which controls most of the commerce and culture of Baltimore and Cape Clear.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Wendy L. Hines VINE VOICE on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Fred and Elly have a good life, but it's busy. So when Fred wins an Irish Pub in Ireland in a dart competition, they decide to pack it all up and move. Fred studies up on how to run a pub, and Elly is anxious to swim in the waters. She's a long distance swimmer and she's extraordinarily good at it. She has a skin condition that gives her a higher fat density, making it easier for her to float and not drown.

When they arrive, it takes a while to get the pub, called the Nightjar, into working order. While Fred works with various contractors to get the pub ready to open, Elly goes to Cape Clear, a nearby island. There, she stays at a bed and breakfast and begins to know the locals and about the ancient clan, descended from Irish saints, who have ruled the island for centuries.

What Elly really wants to do is swim the Fastnet, a dangerous endeavor. Also, Elly keeps seeing a strange man with no arms walking the fences at night, leading a pack of goats. When she questions the locals about it, they regard her curiously. They haven't seen that person and have no idea who she is talking about.

Meanwhile, Fred is trying to write a novel and spend time with Elly when it allows. Elly misses Fred as well, but her swimming seems to have taken over most of her time. But as the two of them find their lives immersing more with the locals, danger begins to surround them. As it accelerates, their marriage begins to crumble.

With a cast of likable and original characters, a dramatic and beautiful backdrop, a dangerous feud and a local intrigue, The Night Swimmer is a unique journey with complex plotting. Powerful, beautiful writing and remarkable storytelling, you won't want to miss this exciting novel!
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More About the Author

Matt Bondurant's new novel The Night Swimmer (Scribner) will be published in January, 2012. His second novel The Wettest County in the World (Scribner 2008) was a New York Times Editor's Pick, and San Francisco Chronicle Best 50 Books of the Year. His first novel The Third Translation (Hyperion 2005) was an international bestseller, translated into 14 languages worldwide. A former John Gardner Fellow in Fiction at Bread Loaf, Kingsbury Fellow at Florida State, and Walter E. Dakin Fellow at Sewanee, Matt's short fiction has been published in journals such as Prairie Schooner, The New England Review, and Glimmer Train, and he has recently held residencies at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. He currently lives in Texas. (

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