Now the thought of strangers staying in my house when I’m not there isn’t one that appeals on any level but for Caroline and therapist husband Francis the house swap gives them an opportunity to take a cheap break in Chiswick, close to London. So they make a folder of important information and leave their Leeds apartment to be enjoyed by a stranger in their absence.
Francis and Caroline leave their young son Eddie with her mother and drive to Chiswick and the boxy house which will become their base for exploring museums and the like in the big city for the next week. As they walk inside the lack of personal possessions is immediately apparent. Who’d live in a house like this?
This is a domestic thriller and as such a portrait of a marriage under an enormous amount of strain. Francis has suffered with an unspecified addiction while Caroline, the breadwinner, cook, bottle washer and parent, eventually snaps and starts a lurid affair with a younger colleague. The affair is hot, as are both Caroline and Carl, her paramour and the sections of the book set in the past are full of sex and the excitement of new passion. Caroline believes the lies she tells herself and her enjoyment of the attention in contrast to her empty marriage is very well done. But all this is in the past, two years before the trip away. So when Caroline notices things that remind her of times passed and she becomes spooked, as you would.
This is a good debut novel although not suitable for those readers who need to like or admire the characters. I would have liked to know more about the background to Francis’s addiction but as The House Swap is mostly told from Caroline’s point of view, we hear her thoughts on him but little of what makes him tick (when he’s not out of it on whatever pills he’s addicted to) In fact the woman who seemed most ‘real’ was the intense neighbour but that is probably because we know Caroline is hiding, from herself as much as Francis.
What The House Swap does really well is to shine a spotlight on how one person’s behaviour can cause a ripple effect, and it does it well. It’s also a lesson in how lack of communication can cause huge issues that can’t be overcome without a level of trust.
Caroline has only just made herself at home before a neighbour introduces herself and becomes a little bit keen to spend time with her which is just odd considering she’s only staying for a week.
There is plenty of intrigue that kept me turning the pages of this novel which is the ideal beach read. After all we all like to peek behind someone else’s curtains, even if the thought of the favour being returned makes us recoil in horror. The plotting is accomplished so even though I could think of various ways the storyline could play out, I wasn’t right in any aspect at all.
I’d like to thank the publishers Transworld who allowed to me read a copy of The House Swap before publication on 3 May 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Rebecca Fleet for an entertaining read.