I'm sort of a sucker for good stories about sisters and beautiful writing so The First Rule of Swimming was definitely a book I enjoyed. In fact, it was such a pleasant read that I breezed through it in one night!
I don't know a lot about the history of Croatia, but it's not necessary for enjoyment of this book. I think Brkic did a good job of what Ru Freeman describes in this interview, of writing from the consciousness of the characters and describing how the events affected them. So...while I still don't really know the history, that never detracted from my enjoyment of the book because I knew that what happened had affected them a lot and been important to them.
There are two sisters with different fathers. And while one sister knows who her father was, the other does not. This is one of the reasons she always feels quite restless and ends up going overseas to sort of find herself. But she disappears and so her sister goes to America herself to look for her.
I loved this book because I love stories about identity and finding out who you are. I like stories about unraveling the secrets of the past in order to learn new truths. And I liked that there was exploration of ideas of what stories belong to who and who gets to claim what pain. I also just love stories where there's a love between sisters or friends or non-romantic that is so deep it covers up oceans of hurt.
The novel wasn't perfect. The ending seemed just a bit overly dramatic/action-y to me, though that might help this book be more commercial than it otherwise would have been. There's a romance that isn't given a huge amount of depth or resolution but is resolved. Even so, I found this book hugely enjoyable and as I mentioned before, compulsively readable. Definitely an author to keep an eye on and a book to enjoy!
Source of Book: ARC from publisher
Publisher: Little, Brown