The Secret to Not Drowning is an entertaining, moving and thought-provoking psychological thriller, written with wit and wry humour. It is written in the first person and we, the readers can listen to the secret observations and emotions of a lonely, isolated woman; Marion. 

When Marion was young she’d wanted to be a ‘Charlie’s Angel’, but now she’s lost her dreams of independence, excitement and adventure, having married a bullying, controlling, abusive and horribly manipulative man. The only free time she has for herself is when she goes swimming: floating in the water is her escape from being controlled and belittled. We are not told the husband’s name; he is always referred to as He or Him and the capital H is relevant because this emphasises the way in which he seems to regard himself (somewhat god-like) and expects Marion to be humble, obedient and perhaps a little less than human. But somehow poor Marion is never good enough and He finds fault with her no matter what!

‘The story opens with a mutual tragedy, which is depicted with tenderness and compassion.’

The characters are beautifully portrayed: Marion is cowed and broken but she is observant and funny and a survivor. The Husband’s bullying habits and hectoring manners are nicely depicted, as is his sad lack of self-knowledge and inability to listen to any voice but his own. The time frame of the novel covers a few months in this couple’s day-to-day life together. The story opens with a mutual tragedy, which is depicted with tenderness and compassion. This tragedy seems to act as a catalyst or wake- up call to Marion. She starts to think for herself and ask herself some questions. A chance meeting with an old friend from school re-connects Marion with her younger self and a friendship (which of course she has to keep secret from her husband) develops. Is it possible that Marion may escape her miserable isolated life and find herself and her own voice again?

I loved this novel because it is written with warmth and humour. It intelligently unravels the psychology of bullying and manipulation. It is a book you don’t have to work hard at; it is a page-turner! I felt that the author has especially enjoyed portraying the bullying Husband in all his preening glory. She makes us laugh at him and this helps to cut him down to size!

You can borrow The Secret to Not Drowning from Cambridgeshire Libraries , Norfolk Libraries or Suffolk Libraries.

Listen to the podcast below with the author, Colette Snowden, as she discusses her writing, the journey to publication, libraries and Brave New Reads with The Last Pilot author Benjamin Johncock:

Review by Ruth Cowan

I have always been a book-mad woman and working in a library is the perfect occupation for me. I am happily employed as a District Library Assistant at Ely library and am very much enjoying both Brave New Reads and the Summer Reading Challenge at the moment. Bliss!