When Joey Rubin stumbles upon a group of elderly women swimming in a lake one freezing January morning, she thinks they must be mad. But then they dare her to come in…
Joey, an overworked New York architect, is in the Cotswolds to oversee the restoration of Stanway House – the stately home that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. It hasn’t been easy. The local residents aren’t exactly welcoming, and then there’s the problem of the brooding caretaker, a man who seems to take every opportunity to undermine her plans. She soon begins to feel that she can’t do anything right.
Until, that is, she discovers the J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society and begins to take a daily dip with them in their own private Neverland. For Joey, meeting Aggie, Gala, Lilia and co. is a life-changing experience, the beginning of a friendship that will transform her in the most remarkable of ways…
The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society is a book about friendship, how it changes over the years, especially when the friends are separated by oceans and life experiences. Joey’s own friendship with Sarah, who she’s known since childhood, is not the same as it once was, with Joey living in New York and Sarah in England. When Joey visits Sarah and her family on her way to the Cotswolds, it’s clear their lives are very different; Joey has put her career front and center and enjoys her solitude. Sarah is the mother of four rambunctious children, happily married and wanting to share her happiness with Joey, who can’t get over how much her friend has changed.
When Joey arrives at Stanway House, the lukewarm receptions she receives disturbs her but doesn’t stop her from doing her job. She has to deal with small town politics and resistance to what the townspeople see as the destruction of the house. When she discovers the group of women swimming in the frigid pond, she’s fascinated by their friendship and outlook on life, and is happy to learn that one of the women is Aggie, Sarah’s mother-in-law, and another has written a book on J.M. Barrie that may turn out to be immensely helpful to her.
While Ian, the caretaker of Stanway House, is not very welcoming to Joey, his daughter Lily quickly grows attached to her, and it doesn’t take long for Joey and Ian to also grow close. But Joey and Ian’s relationship just causes another rift in her friendship with Sarah, and also angers Ian’s mother-in-law, Lilia, and they agree they must decide if their friendship can be saved.
The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society is an enjoyable read, as Joey learns quite a bit from the women when she joins them on their daily swim. I would have liked to learn more about the women themselves. The title is a bit deceiving as the book is really about Joey and her relationships and not the Swimming Society itself. Fans of Peter Pan will enjoy the trivia included.
Nancy is way too much of a wimp to swim in freezing cold water. She writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.