The Girl in a Swing – Richard Adams

Richard Adams
This is one of those novels I haven’t thought about for a good while. It came back to mind because (of course) of LibraryThing.

The Girl in a Swing is absolutely nothing like Watership Down, no talking animals at all. Instead this is a story about love and obsession and ghosts, and it’s really spectacular. The main character is a young man from a stable family who has taken over his father’s fine china business in a small town in England. He has the slightest bit of extrasensory perception, which shows itself only rarely in his boyhood and young adulthood.

Traveling on business to Scandinavia, he meets a beautiful woman and falls in love. She is bright and funny and evocative, and she brings him out of his shell. She’s also secretive in ways that are vaguely alluring and disturbing both. In a matter of weeks it’s decided that they will marry. She will quit her secretarial job and join him in England. They marry in the spring, and the rest of the novel takes place over the summer.

This was a truly frightening and sad story, and it’s also a very well written one. There are several layers of things going on at any one time. I had read the book three times before I felt I had caught most of the subtle interwoven connections.

I recommend this book very highly, unless you really can’t stand to be frightened. There is no gore, you see no violence — anything like that happens well off-stage and is only approached from an angle, after the fact.

Oh and: this is one of the few novels set in contemporary England where I felt … I suppose the word is, at home. It felt real to me, as real as my husband’s home town and his friends and the extended family, in the way people talk to each other (and don’t). Also, I blame this book for a minor obsession with the history of fine china and porcelain. And if you’re wondering who the girl in the swing is — that’s an excellent question. I have thought about it alot, and I’m still not sure.

2 Replies to “The Girl in a Swing – Richard Adams”

  1. I read this book a long time ago when I was still a teenager. I can’t remember much about it except that I did think it was very creepy and left me feeling a bit unsettled. Your description of it does make me think that maybe I should have another read of it and see what I get out of it this time.

  2. I too read this many many years ago — but I remember the story as eerie and compelling. A rather lame movie was made of it, starring the ethereal Meg Tilly. Pre or post Big Chill? Can’t remember. Also can’t remember who the hero was. (Sigh.) Anyway, based on your recommendation and those decades-old impressions, I will now have to hunt the book down. Where oh where could it be? If only I had that Library thingie, and the motivation to enter all the info that makes it useful …

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