Book Club: The Lost Swimmer

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Author: Ann Turner
ISBN: 978-19-250-3086-0
RRP: $29.99

The Lost Swimmer is the debut novel of Australian author Ann Turner, who is also an award-winning screenwriter and director.


Rebecca Wilding is an archeology professor and head of her department at Coastal University. The economic climate is affecting everyone and it seems no-one’s job is secure. Rebecca is having issues with the Dean of Arts, Priscilla, but she is not the only one; it seems all the department Heads are having issues with her.

Something isn’t quite right at home either, Rebecca is certain her husband is having an affair. She may not have proof but she knows him well enough to know that he’s hiding something.

If this isn’t enough to deal with Rebecca also finds herself accused of serious fraud.

Rebecca and Stephen both have conference commitments overseas in the semester break so have made it into a holiday in which Rebecca hopes they can reconnect.

Turner explores the slippery slope we find ourselves on when trust is compromised and secrets are kept. It has often been said that those who mistrust are often the ones with something to hide… so if Rebecca is so determined that something is going on with Stephen, even though she has no proof, what does that say about what’s going on with her?

There was a lot going on in The Lost Swimmer so there were lots of different threads and possibilities. My mind was ticking the entire time I was reading, trying to work out how it all ties together and if it’s all a part of the same larger issue.

The Wildings live on the coast of Victoria and the entire family are lovers of the sea, except that Rebecca doesn’t swim for reasons that will be uncovered in due time. Stephen on the other hand is a strong swimmer.

Their holiday is planned to take them through lots of the places they have loved as a couple and a family as well as places that Rebecca has worked. Now that their children are grown Rebecca can take Stephen to the digs she has worked through the years and introduce him to colleagues that he never had the chance to meet. It’s also a bonus that they will be near the location the fraud allegations stem from so Rebecca plans to do some investigating of her own.

The scenery and locations that Turner has chosen are divine. They are atmospheric, picturesque and gorgeously described. I have never traveled, and never really been bitten by the travel bug, but to see the Amalfi coast and the history of Greece through Turner’s eyes had me longing for blue skies and bluer seas. Her love of history shines through in Rebecca’s passion for the past.

It is a sad situation if, when life spirals out of control, you can’t turn to the one you promised yourself to for life. At first you simply don’t mention it because there’s other stuff going on, that I can understand. But then to actively try and keep it from the one you love? Not quite so understandable. The lies stack up, the hole gets deeper and you just lose the ability to claw yourself out. It’s even worse when both partners in a marriage are caught up in their own web of deceit, where does it end and is there any way of coming back from that?

the lost swimmer

I found the book to be compelling reading but it wasn’t fast paced, there was a lot going on and it unfolded slowly. Stephen didn’t disappear until halfway through the story but there were enough other threads to keep us going.

I’m not really touching on the characterisation in the novel because I’m not quite sure how I feel about the characters at the moment. Their behaviours needed to be as they were for the story to flow the way it did but I can’t decide how I feel about them.

The Lost Swimmer had some predictability but there were a lot of things I just didn’t see coming, and even now I am left with questions because the end was not what I expected.

The Lost Swimmer is a captivating debut filled with suspense, where everything and everyone become suspicious. It will definitely get you thinking, and I am finding that it doesn’t end when you close the book.

The Lost Swimmer is available now from Simon & Schuster and where all good books are sold.

You can find Ann Turner on her Website and Facebook.

The Lost Swimmer is Book #32 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2015.

20 of our lucky readers are also reading The Lost Swimmer and their reviews will appear below in the comments. Please be advised that there may be spoilers.

21 thoughts on “Book Club: The Lost Swimmer

  1. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this novel. As it was a debut novel for author Ann Turner, I was expecting to have to make some allowances, both in style and in plot. To my surprise, this little beauty required nothing of the sort. Congratulations to Ann Turner for a great read!

    The style of the novel was almost poetic. The colourful descriptions of scenery and characters drew me into the fantasy world like a magnet. It allowed me to travel to far off times and exotic places without having to leave the kitchen table.

    For me, this novel was about the human dilemma. It went beyond the power of secrets and lost trust. It touched on the intoxicating effects of joy and success, the illusion we have of control over our destiny, the falsehood of our personal importance, and the difficulty people have in turning away from a course of ideas and actions once they have “invested” in it. Regardless of whether we believe in a directed reality or a random one, there is a need to understand that, in many ways, life and relationships will take their own course. What happens is not entirely our “fault” or totally within our control. In fact, the discoveries Rebecca makes as an adult in relation to her past are consistent with this belief.

    I love the main characters, not because they were perfect, but because they were so real and flawed. Almost every one made some poor decisions and then dug themselves into deeper holes trying to preserve the illusion of normality. Yet each, in his or her own way, was loving and loyal.

    I didn’t feel that the plot was too slow. It unravelled at a realistic pace, and we were filled in about past details at just the right times. There were no jerky bits where I lost the thread and there was enough suspense on each page (either psychological suspense or mystery) to keep me involved.

    I didn’t like the way the novel ended. I understand what the author was trying to do. She was trying to draw us into Rebecca’s world of bewilderment, anger, loss and denial. She wanted us to keep asking the questions “what” and “why”. For me it didn’t work as it was put too close to the end. It came at a time when I turned the last page, closed the book and remembered my real life. I needed more time to get involved in the final twist, and I didn’t have any. I was left a bit confused (and I still am unsure of what actually happened at the end) but my feelings were not evoked.

    My only other comment is that this novel was realistic and engrossing enough to be disturbing for people who have experienced similar events or were suffering from depression. Personally, I would have preferred some warning or referral on the book cover for those distressed by the content.

    Thank you once again for the opportunity. I warmly recommend this novel as a great read.

  2. The Lost Swimmer is a fast paced story which soon has you caught up in the world of intrigue that the main character, archaeology professor Rebecca Wilding, has inadvertently been thrust into.
    Although used to uncovering historical secrets and piecing together clues is part of her working life, Rebecca finds it’s much much harder to get to the truth when it’s her own life and the people she thinks she knows who are involved. But this is exactly what needs to be examined. Not only is Rebecca being investigated for fraudulent misuse of university funds, by her erstwhile friend, now departmental Dean Priscilla, Rebecca also thinks her husband is having an affair. On top of that, whilst on holidays Rebecca comes under suspicion for murder when her husband Stephen suddenly disappears when out swimming, leaving behind considerable debt and a heartbroken and bewildered Rebecca!!
    The gods or someone certainly seem to be plotting against Rebecca and not knowing who to trust, its up to her to work it all out before her life completely unravels !!
    I enjoyed this book, it’s a real emotional roller coaster and although it took a while to get to the ‘lost swimmer’ development in the story, there were enough twists and turns, suspense and build up to keep me enthralled. However given the build up in the rest of the book I found
    the ending a bit abrupt. While many loose ends were tied up, the outcomes were a little too neat and hurried leaving me feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Nevertheless I would recommend this book as a good emotional thriller and an interesting read. Thank you for the opportunity to review it.

  3. “The Lost Swimmer” is a rather promising debut from writer, Ann Turner. It threads together a number of different stories and characters relating to an Archaeology professor named Rebecca. The latter is accused by her university of misusing funds and on top of that she is suspicious of her husband as she thinks he is having an affair with her former friend, Priscilla (who is also the department’s Dean and a lady who is making some iron-fisted management decisions at the Australian university).

    This book has some very real and authentic characters and it does take in a lot of issues dealing with love, trust, human choices and relationship dysfunctions. It is also designed to be a thriller or suspense story but I found the first half to be a very slow burn while the different lines of questioning were established. I also had difficulty relating to the main character who seemed to be very paranoid at times, although I will leave some readers to cast their own judgments over whether Rebecca’s behaviours were justified or not.

    “The Lost Swimmer” did keep me guessing until the very end and Turner did a fabulous job of throwing in various twists, turns and curveballs. Her descriptions of Italy and Greece were excellent and took me back to Europe and I really felt the writer hit her stride during this latter part of the book (this may also have been due to a major plot twist at this point too). In all, this novel was a good and capable one but I would like to see some minor improvements in Turner’s next book.

  4. Ann Turner’s debut novel ‘The Lost Swimmer’ is well written.
    Her main character Rebecca comes across to me as being very paranoid at times but her fears unravel as justified when she is accused of major fraud that is so well set up that it looks convincingly like she has done it.
    Rebecca’s suspicions of her husband having an affair is ultimately proven correct but doesn’t come to light until almost the end of the book.
    The descriptions of some of the places Rebecca and Stephen travel to in Italy and Greece are stunning and shows Ann Turner’s love of Travel and History.
    There are a few unexpected twists in the story line as Rebecca tries to prove her innocence in the allegations of fraud and in the disappearance of her husband. The more Rebecca tries to discover who is framing her, the more the evidence stacks up against her and being in Greece, the bureaucracy of the Banking and Legal Systems frustrates her. Rebecca does not believe her husband has drowned when he disappeared.
    The Lost Swimmer is full of trust issues, devotion of friends and family, unexpected betrayal and the ultimate tragedy when Stephen’s body is discovered.
    Rebecca is proven innocent of Fraud,and in Stephen’s death,but it is bittersweet for her as she still has questions and anger over his actions and betrayal.
    I did enjoy reading this book felt a little flat at the end.

  5. Well, I could have written this review at 3am this morning! I started the novel yesterday morning and read off and on til almost 3am. In short, it was an intriguing story that was, at times, difficult to put down. I agree with earlier comments that it was slow paced at the beginning, but I found the last quarter of the novel quite rushed. Rebecca’s husband does not disappear until well into the last part of the book and from there it is frenzy of action which ends quite abruptly.

    Thefirst-person narrator, Rebecca, has so much going on in her life that I could almost feel her insecurities and panic – fear of losing her husband, her job and even her sanity. In fact, I was beginning to question her sanity towards the end – was she simply imagining everything that was going wrong in her life?

    Certain aspects of the novel resonated with me – after working in an academic environment a couple of years ago, I can understand the troublesome politics that Rebecca and her colleagues encountered at the university. This part of the novel is the believable reality for many who work in Australian universities today. The drives along the dangerous roads of southern Italy recalled memories of travels many years ago – I was one of those panic-stricken tourists sitting in those buses that somehow managed to weave their way around these precariously positioned roads.

    Overall, this was an enjoyable novel that I will be recommending to friends as an intriguing read.

  6. I enjoyed reading ‘The Lost Swimmer’, and the easing in of the characters and the storyline.
    To me it was a little too ‘flowery’, with so many adjectives. The plot twisted and turned, which certainly kept me intrigued, but then rushed to it’s conclusion.
    I actually read through a few of the last chapters twice, as there were some unanswered questions about characters in the story line, but I had not misread, and there was no explanation as to who they were.
    This left me feeling frustrated.
    Also, the storyline had us believe the authorities in the story were corrupt, and this was not proven or not proven in the story.
    Overall it left me with unanswered questions, but a captivating read non the less.

  7. After finishing The Lost Swimmer, I’m in two minds about it. I read it quite quickly because I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next, but at the same time, it didn’t have any real emotional grip on me. Now, after a few days to reflect on it, I think the plotline was a bit overdone. While the storyline was very imaginative, I could definitely feel the influence of Ann Turner’s screenwriting experience and expertise while reading The Lost Swimmer and I think it would make a great story for a telemovie/tv drama, but some of the many different plot twists and dramatic elements could have been left out for the purpose of telling the written story, particularly as there were a number of issues left unresolved at the end of the book, and more put into the development of the characters and their relationships. The style of the last third of the book seemed a bit incongruent with the first two-thirds.

    While I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection to the main character, Rebecca, I did find her self doubt and questioning about her intuition and suspicions to be realistic and understandable. The physical landscape descriptions were vivid and easy to visualise.

    Overall, The Lost Swimmer is a very worthy debut novel.

  8. I thought that Ann Turner with this debut novel did a wonderful job of taking me on Rebecca’s journey and what a journey it was. To be firstly thinking that her husband Stephen was having an affair and then to be under investigation for fraudulent misuse of university funds would have been quite a shock, but the disappearance of Stephen, firstly thought to have drowned and then being accused by the police of murdering him would have been devastating.

    Ann made all the characters in this book feel real and I couldn’t help but be caught up in all the intrigue. Her descriptions of the places visited by Rebecca and Stephen when they were holidaying in Italy and Greece had me visualising being there. I could almost feel what they would have been feeling on that drive by them along the treacherous Amalfi Coast with all the blind corners and the lethal drop down to the sea.

    I was pleased that Rebecca was found not to have committed any fraudulent activity and also to be innocent in Stephen’s death which however still remained a mystery.

    I really enjoyed this novel, it had so many twists and turns, as well as suspense. It was definitely an intriguing read and I recommend it to everyone. I was however disappointed in the ending and finished reading it wanting to know more.

    Thank you very much to Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read and also review this novel.

  9. Thanks for the opportunity to read The Lost Swimmer. I waited days for my copy to arrive and then I read it in two days flat.

    For a first novel I thought it was quite well written, great storyline and descriptive of places and events. I really wanted to know how the story would unfold and knew that it could have gone either way. Personally I was thinking the worst, we always do. I guess Stephen being the bad guy in the end even if not to the extent that I was lead to believe he could be made for an interesting twist.

    If anything to be critical, I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and sometimes a full paragraph was a bit much, when a sentence would do.

    All in all its a story that could be a possibility, a reality and would resonate with many people.

    Well Done to Ann and I look forward to reading more from Ann Turner

  10. Rebecca Wilding has a great job, wonderful husband, adult kids and to top it off the perfect beach house. Then as you read on everything begins to unravel in this novel. The university she works in is unfortunately facing some cutbacks whilst she facing allegations of fraud and then to makes matters worse, her husband may also be having an affair.

    Rebecca and her husband end up moving from Australia to Europe for work. As Rebecca and her husband Stephen try to reconnect the paranoia and deception ends up weighing itself down on their marriage.

    Quite a mysterious novel the author creates a tasteful array of characters that are somewhat flawed. You will find you will lose yourself in this particular book.
    You really need to read this yourself to appreciate that unravelling of a good mystery this book provides. There are some fantastic twists and turns to keep you interested in this book the whole time your reading it.

    This is a novel with a powerful and strong pose and if you’re looking for a beautifully written thriller, I cannot recommend this great book enough. I must thank Beauty and Lace and Simon and Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read and also review this brilliant novel.

  11. Firstly, thanks as always to Beauty and Lace for the chance to review.
    I have just finished reading The Lost Swimmer, and my review is as follows:
    The Lost Swimmer has an interesting storyline, with deception and secrets throughout. I found it to be a bit slow in the beginning, it took me a little while until it had my full attention; and the ending was too abrupt and with too many unanswered questions, which I didn’t like at all. Even though I wasn’t expecting/predicting a happy ending, but it just left me wandering too many things.
    I did like Ann’s descriptions of the European countries in the book; they really painted a visual feast for me in my mind.
    I couldn’t connect with either Stephen or Rebecca’s characters, and even though the story is told from Rebecca’s perspective, I couldn’t sympathise a lot with her for reasons I still can’t figure out.
    The title is very clever and can be interpreted in more ways than one.
    It did have some scenarios that were really captivating but then other parts were a bit slow.
    I’d be curious to see what Ann’s next book will be about as this was her debut novel, and hopefully the next one will be a bit more intriguing and a better ending to it too.
    I’d rate this book about a 5 out of 10.

  12. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the Lost Swimmer.

    If you enjoy mystery with lots of twists and turn, then this book would be a great read for you.

    I really enjoyed reading this book. This book tells the story of Rebecca who is archaeology professor. Rebecca’s husband Stephen is a professor of Economics. They have a lovely house in the coastline and two older children living their own lives in the city.

    However, all is not perfect. A department head at work is making Rebecca’s life difficult and a serious case of fraud has been uncovered for which Rachel is under investigation. Rebecca is also worried that her husband is husband is making bad investments on the stock market and is having an affair.

    Rebecca and Stephen then go on a summer conference trip to Greece and Italy. On the way to the conference, Rebecca starts digging about to find out who has framed her for fraud. In Greece, she finds some answer. Then in Italy her husband goes swimming and disappears. Rebecca is now the prime suspect in his disappearance and the fraud investigation.

    Rebecca must now uncover who is framing her and why.

    The book is a great read, the characters are easy to connect with and there is plenty of twists and turns in this book. The locations are described beautifully and its makes this book come to life.

  13. I enjoyed this novel by first time author and thought it was very entertaining. I moved quickly thorough the pages as I wanted to learn what was happening in the world of Rebecca after awful circumstances.
    The story kept surprising with learning the mistakes characters had made in their lives (something many of us can relate to) and I like how descriptive the author was when Rebecca was in Italy & Greece. As I have never been to Europe, I imagined it to be picturesque and this memory of the novel will stay with me forever. Ended interesting too, something I wasn’t expecting which was how the novel felt to me, it keep me in the guessing.

  14. The Lost Swimmer

    The Lost Swimmer is the debut novel from author Ann Turner. The Lost Swimmer tells the story of Rebecca Wilding, an Archaeologist and her husband Stephen, an Economist. Although she seems to have a successful career, have raised two children and is about to throw a surprise 50th party for her husband we soon learns that not all is right in Rebecca’s life. Turner makes mysterious references to Stephen having an affair with one of his colleagues. This is all speculation on behalf of Rebecca, but as a reader I was convinced he was up to no good. Rebecca is accused of fraudulent behaviour through her work and the reader is yet again drawn into trying to resolve the puzzle that Turner has created between Rebecca’s home and work life.

    Rebecca and Stephen head off from their beachside home in Geelong, Australia to the beautiful coastline of Greece, Italy and then Paris. Like Rebecca, I became convinced that Stephen was deceiving his wife and sleeping with his co-worker and that he was also trying to set his wife up for fraud and run away to Europe with his new lover. I read the story eagerly waiting for Turner to unravel some key questions: Why was he having an affair? Why did he use his wife and steal the money? Why was he dabbling in the stock markets and being secretive about it? I couldn’t wait for all to be revealed.

    Unfortunately, Turner never completely answered these questions for the reader. Stephen ended up drowning while in Athens and left many unanswered questions dangling for the reader. The fraud plot, which dominated the story reached an anti-climax when it was discovered that Rebecca’s greedy and bitter colleague was behind the scheme the whole time and it was just left at that. Turner jumps quite quickly between key parts of the story yet at the same time the plot is drawn out and slow, missing the point of the parts story line.
    Water plays a key theme in the story and as the name suggests there are many references to swimming and an underlying message of remaining strong in the turbulence of a current. We soon learn that Rebecca lost her Father in a drowning incident and then it becomes evident that this was also her husband’s fate. Turner used lots of descriptive language and painted beautiful pictures of both the European and Australia coast line which were central to the stories themes.

    Overall I enjoyed reading The Lost Swimmer even though the ending was a bit disappointing. Turner writes beautiful throughout and creates characters that the reader can empathise with. A perfect beach time read!

  15. Thankyou Beauty & Lace for this fantastic opportunity to read the Debut novel The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner. Very well written, you get to know the characters very well. Was not actually sure by the title of this book what it would lead to, but it’s a very apt title. It has you guessing all the way through the book. I don’t wish to give too much away but a very enjoyable read I must say. Looking forward to any future novels that Ann Turner may pen.

  16. Firstly I’d like to thank Beauty and Lace and also Simon and Schuster for giving me the delightful opportunity to review The Lost Swimmer, by Ann Turner, I am forever grateful.

    Ann Turners debut novel; The Lost Swimmer was an interesting read. The main character, Rebecca Wildling seems to be living the perfect life; she has a beautiful house on the coastline and a loving husband.

    Although, later in the book it is revealed that her life isn’t quite as perfect as it seems. Events transpire and the story unravels as Rebecca’s work is making cuts and she has suspicion that her husband, Stephen, is having an affair… On top of that Dean of Arts, Priscilla, has made complaints against Rebecca and she has a hunch that Priscilla is the woman Stephen is having an affair with.

    The “good” and “bad” characters were established early in the book and their feelings towards each other were predictable. The characters are described in a way that matches their personality and it is easy to guess what their effect on the plot will be.

    Turners plot and story line was very well written but slow paced it took a while for the storyline to get moving, I found that the description in the book was a little too much, sometimes using a paragraph to describe something that should only be described with one or two sentences.

    Lastly The Lost Swimmer is a lovely novel that I would recommend anyone who loves page turners, even though this one is a little slow paced at the start. Overall I believe that Turner did a great job on her first novel and I’d love to see more of her work to come.

  17. I read this book over one weekend and found it to be an interesting read, I am quite impressed with this author of her first novel and look forward to more to come.
    There were quite a lot of twists and turns and the ending was not what I was expecting. I enjoyed the different characters in the book

  18. The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner has a calm beginning to it and the storytelling is unique and grabed my attention and hooked me in. The way Ann writes gave me a clear images to painting a picture in my head about what was going on and where. There were different storylines mixing together.. and It was like being in a rollercoaster anticipating that gut-dropping feeling associated with the ride. I knew the twists and turns were there but I didn’t how soon or how later in the book They would appear. Overall this book was great read with exotic places, gripping plots and characters that take you on an emotional journey.

  19. I’m so pleased that Michelle kept following up on where my book had gone as it didn’t arrive when it should have – I really, really enjoyed the book. I can well see why Ann Turner is an award winning screenwriter! It is completely unnecessary to go over the plot again as it has been covered well above.

    The novel is unusual in that we know what will happen before we start reading and this should have spoilt the story – but it didn’t. The characters were “real” and believable and woven into the story so that even though you knew the plot, the way the plot was played out was with twists and turns and believable. I wanted to keep reading but didn’t want the book to end!

    The descriptions of the beautiful items in the museums and the scenery were done so that you felt you could really “see” what the characters were seeing. The reverence with which Rebecca saw beautiful items in her archaeology work was fitting and lovely.

    I’m definitely going to be looking with interest and anticipation for Ann Turner’s new novels. In my opinion she has a style that is easy flowing and totally readable that will continue to appeal.

    I felt that the ending was excellent. Knowing that Rebecca is innocent of serious fraud there were times when you wondered if she’d be able to prove her innocence. The ending tied everything together in a most satisfactory way. The sub plots were well handled too, with the gorgeous dog being so protective.

    All in all, a great read that will appeal to a wide audience. Thank you so much to Michelle and Simon and Schuster for making sure I eventually received my copy. I do appreciate your efforts.

  20. Thank-you Beauty & Lace for the opportunity to review this book.

    While I enjoyed some parts of the book, there were others that left me feeling a little confused and unsatisfied. Overall the storyline was okay, but the flow of the story wasn’t smooth, while reading I sometimes felt like things were dragged out and others were quickly skipped over just so they were there. I’d worked out the majority of the ending just over half way through the book, although quite a few unanswered questions were left.

    As a whole, I did enjoy this book, but probably won’t pick it up to read it again. It will be interesting to see where Ann Turner goes with her next book and see her development into a novelist.

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