The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Posted On 25 August 2020

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NightSwimMy Five Word TL:DR Review: Heartbreakingly sad and shocking story

The Night Swim is without doubt a difficult book to read due to the raw emotional impact it delivers.  To be honest, I’m struggling to formulate words to write a review because this really did hit me quite hard, in fact I admit that it took me longer to read  than usual because I needed to step away from it occasionally just to have a mental break.  This is a book that takes a grim look at rape and more than that scrutinizes the blame and shame treatment that is often handed out to victims of such crimes at a time when they are most in need of support.  What can I say, it’s not a book that you’d say you enjoyed, the content is too shocking, but at the same time it’s a good read that made my emotions run amok.

We meet Rachel Krall, host of a popular investigatory style podcast that really took off after a previously convicted man was found innocent and released when new evidence was uncovered by Rachel.  As the book begins Rachel is travelling to a small coastal town where a rape trial, that has the town completely divided, is about to start.

The Night Swim is told in the form of podcast transcripts prepared by Rachel and letters from somebody called Hannah who almost seems to be stalking Rachel in a desperate attempt to get her to investigate a 25 year old case that she believes was murder.  Part courtroom drama and part flashbacks this is a brutally frank look at two young women whose lives were torn apart.  It’s a sad read, it upset me, it made me angry and it made me want to punch something (I would just point out that I’m not a violent person – but this book!  I had definite book rage).

What worked really well for me here was the way the story flows.  It involves two very similar tales, both desperately sad and shocking, one a glaring injustice and the other being played out in front of the judge and jury and really highlighting how very difficult it is for rape victims to be treated fairly. For example, in the rape trial the young girl has to provide testimony, reliving the attack and being scrutinised and harangued.  The accused doesn’t have to face any such ordeal.  He doesn’t have to prove that he’s telling the truth or tell a consistent story whilst facing hostile questions from an attorney.

Rachel is a really good character to read.  I liked her modern attitude and the way she stood up for herself even if she was inwardly scared.  Rachel is approached by Hannah who is trying to discover what really happened to her sister 25 years ago, she supposedly accidentally drowned and yet it seems that any evidence was mysteriously lost or simply not acted upon.  At first Rachel is hesitant to become involved but as the correspondence from Hannah begins to arrive with increasing regularity Rachel finds herself getting pulled into Hannah’s story and really starting to care.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this has quite a slow build, which to be fair I really didn’t mind, but by comparison the conclusion felt a little rushed.  Things came together very quickly in the last few chapters and the tone felt different compared to the rest of the book.  It certainly didn’t spoil the read for me but it surprised me a little.

That being said this was a compelling read.  Very emotional, very hard hitting and maybe not for everyone but a well written book that manages to handle a  difficult topic in a sensitive and impactful way.

Rating 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.