Book Review: The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Anglea Brkic

December 8, 2015 Book review 8 ★★★★

The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Anglea Brkic is another of those books that I left lie about unloved and unread on my kindle.  Big mistake!  Huge!

Book Review: The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Anglea BrkicThe First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic
Published by Little on May 28th 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley

A woman must leave her island home to search for her missing sister-and confront the haunted history of her family.
Magdalena does not panic when she learns that her younger sister has disappeared. A free-spirit, Jadranka has always been prone to mysterious absences. But when weeks pass with no word, Magdalena leaves the isolated Croatian island where their family has always lived and sets off to New York to find her sister. Her search begins to unspool the dark history of their family, reaching back three generations to a country torn by war.
A haunting and sure-footed debut by an award-winning writer, The First Rule of Swimming explores the legacy of betrayal and loss in a place where beauty is fused inextricably with hardship, and where individuals are forced to make wrenching choices as they are swept up in the tides of history.

CREATIVE From the TBR pile Historical Mystery Refreshing

First Line of The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Anglea Brkic:

“The letter was written in a girlish hand, the purple letters drifting across the sky blue background of the stationery.”

My Thoughts on The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Anglea Brkic:

This was such an interesting and unique read.  The setting is on Rosmarina Island which is an island off Croatia (previously Yugoslavia).  Magdalena’s sister has disappeared in America and in trying to track her down; she has to look back through her own family history to unravel the mystery.

The first thing that hit me about this book is the rich tapestry of characters that drew me in.  The sisters who are so different, their American cousin, their uncle who fled from the interrogation horrors of his past, their caring Grandfather, their selfish mother.  I wanted to know more about every single one of them.

When I first saw the characters from the girls’ point of view, I had one impression of them.  However when I learned more about each individual character, I got a new appreciation for them.  These are not cookie-cutter, one shape suits all characters; instead they are complex and SO interesting.  Even the girl’s mother (who I thought was a piece of work) had a fully fleshed history, I still didn’t like her but I did understand her a little.

I also loved the Croatian setting and it explained the unsettled history of the country so well.  There was an atmosphere of political upheaval and I had feeling of unease while I read as the environment felt so unsafe.  I got the feeling that spies were everywhere and that no one was beyond the eyes and ears of the regime.  I can’t even imagine living in such a tense and nervy environment but this book gave a little appreciation of just how upsetting it had been.

With such an interesting setting, a mystery to solve and characters that were unpredictable, this is a book I flew though.  My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: four-stars


Who should read The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Anglea Brkic?

I’d recommend this to you if you like books that mix up historical fiction with contemporary settings, if you like books with lots of family drama or if you appreciate richly developed characters.

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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