‘I can’t take my eyes off the water. Can you?’
It’s summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele – wife, mother, teacher – it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.
But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realizing, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?
A leafy London Lido in summer, what’s not to like? It offers escapism to protagonist Natalie, a middle aged school teacher longing for some excitement. She has a comfortable yet mundane life with husband Ed, and teenage daughter Molly. Ed a maths teacher who likes to plan life to the last detail, and Molly who suffers from Aquaphobia which intensifies her teenage angst. The lido is perfect place for some time away from it all, and is the place her life changes when she meets the glamorous Lara Channing; one of life’s original golden goodtime girls. Lara is everything that Natalie is not yet aspires to be, but more than that, it’s not just her hair and skin the colour of spun gold, her heart is pure 24 carat too. To Natalie’s amazement she is befriended by Lara and accepted into her inner circle, and is living the life she has always dreamed of. However, whilst covetous Natalie is basking in her new found glory her old life slowly starts to fall apart, and she is haunted by old memories of a childhood summer she had previously buried away. Is it purely coincidence or is there something more sinister afoot?
I absolutely loved this book. The story starts off slowly and steady, and I was mesmerized instantly by the character Lara, and her extravagant indulgent life. I could actually feel the glitz and glamour radiating off of her so it was no surprise that boring Natalie was so drawn to her, as I was too. The further the story goes on the more despicable the characters become as a darker side to each of them is revealed. The story slowly cumulates as friendship begins to turn into obsession, climaxing at Natalie’s birthday party at the lido where disaster strikes, and past misdeeds catch up with everyone. Whilst I felt the big reveal at the party was somewhat predictable, there was a shocking twist in the epilogue giving a complete different dimension to the story which I really did not see coming. If it had not been for this ending the story would have been mediocre at best, however the careful planning and execution from Candlish ensured a slow simmering plot exploded into something clever, wicked and utterly compelling.
Great stuff, 5 stars from me.