This fiction tale is chilling, evocative and passionate. Also, full of
horses. The time and place jump chapter by chapter between South
Africa of 1962 and a year later in Ontario farmland. A professor of
English who introduces himself at the start narrates his boyhood in SWIMMING WITH HORSES.
Sam Mitchell was fifteen when he failed to make the riding team for
cross country eventing. Hilary Anson, a glamorous and promiscuous
eighteen-year-old, meets him at a stuffy party for the wealthy folks of
Kelso County. She's arrived from an English boarding school to work
with horses, but her home is Apartheid-era South Africa. Hilary decides
to help train Sam to ride better, including showjumping without a
saddle and bridle on his willing mare Della and plunging on horseback
off a rock ledge into a quarry pond. (Note to readers: this is very
As they chat on the rides home, Hilary lets some of her past slip. She's
already experienced enough of life that she has grown up fast, and
she's been loved, she's all been taken advantage of and forced to flee.
Hilary also claims to have a pistol given to her by Nelson Mandela. The
young Sam has never heard of the activist, so he doesn't stop to
wonder why an ANC member would give a weapon to someone
The counter-narrative works well and continually raises more questions
than it answers. We think we know what to expect, but other than
danger and turmoil, who could know what to expect of life in South
Africa during the 1960s? The young people carry the narrative and the
solid background of horses works for me. The details are excellent, like
the Stubben saddle, the heavy Pelham bit, the French warmblood
stallion. My favourite chapter is the cross country event where Sam
rides with Della. This unusual combination of story threads makes SWIMMING WITH HORSES one of the
most memorable books you'll read all year, especially if you like horses.
An unlikely friendship between a Canadian teenager and a South
African girl sparks a journey to untangle an unsolved murder.
Eighteen-year-old Hilary Ansonâ€™s startling good looks and wanton ways
scandalize the denizens of sleepy Kelso County, but young Sam
Mitchell is instantly enthralled by his new friend. Over one sun-soaked
summer, Hilary vastly improves Samâ€™s equestrian skills, while dropping
inscrutable details about her past in apartheid-era South Africa.
Mysteries mount until Hilary vanishes, leaving at least one unsolved
murder in her wake. Many years and two failed marriages later, Sam
sets out for South Africa, determined to crack the enigma of Hilary
Anson. In doing so, he finds himself confronting a shocking secret of