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An unlikely friendship between a Canadian teenager and a South African girl sparks a journey to untangle an unsolved murder. Eighteen-year-old Hilary Anson’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 Sam’s equestrian An unlikely friendship between a Canadian teenager and a South African girl sparks a journey to untangle an unsolved murder. Eighteen-year-old Hilary Anson’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 Sam’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 his own.


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An unlikely friendship between a Canadian teenager and a South African girl sparks a journey to untangle an unsolved murder. Eighteen-year-old Hilary Anson’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 Sam’s equestrian An unlikely friendship between a Canadian teenager and a South African girl sparks a journey to untangle an unsolved murder. Eighteen-year-old Hilary Anson’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 Sam’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 his own.

30 review for Swimming with Horses

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clare O'Beara

    This story sizzles with heat and excitement and the crusading passion of youth. A young woman arrives from apartheid era South Africa, in Canada, to work with horses. She starts training a younger teenage lad who has a lot of work to do to make the school eventing team. The South African sequence of chapters is intercut with the Canada ones, showing us flashbacks and two sides of life. Many characters are not pleasant and some pleasant ones are idealistic. The horse stories in each sequence pull This story sizzles with heat and excitement and the crusading passion of youth. A young woman arrives from apartheid era South Africa, in Canada, to work with horses. She starts training a younger teenage lad who has a lot of work to do to make the school eventing team. The South African sequence of chapters is intercut with the Canada ones, showing us flashbacks and two sides of life. Many characters are not pleasant and some pleasant ones are idealistic. The horse stories in each sequence pull the book together and provide horsey people like me with entertainment. Woudn't we all hate to be young again and not really know what was going on or who was taking advantage. I downloaded an e-ARC from Fresh Fiction and Net Galley. This is an unbiased review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paulina (aspiringliterati)

    At first glance, set in the 60s, this is a seemingly peaceful murder mystery on horseback. At second and closer look however, it’s all that and more because it could as well be read in reverse and then beneath the façade of peaceful, there would be pure, thrilling danger. Sam is a 15-year-old teenager of Kelso, Ontario, CA when she meets Hilary, a white South African girl spending her summer in his town. She is a few years older than him but a kid still and despite that -- or maybe it is because At first glance, set in the 60s, this is a seemingly peaceful murder mystery on horseback. At second and closer look however, it’s all that and more because it could as well be read in reverse and then beneath the façade of peaceful, there would be pure, thrilling danger. Sam is a 15-year-old teenager of Kelso, Ontario, CA when she meets Hilary, a white South African girl spending her summer in his town. She is a few years older than him but a kid still and despite that -- or maybe it is because of that age difference? fellow readers, you’ll be the judges of that as my mind’s been made – they become friends. Their days pass as she teaches Sam proper horseback riding while his awe of her constantly grows (“she could be an angel, if angels could ride horses”). The purpose of her visit remains shrouded in mystery and events of little or more consequence, ones that don’t make much sense start occurring. But the duo of Sam and Hilary remains intact, possibly because he dreads losing her and asking questions could cause that, or because she trusts him that much and their unlikely friendship could weather just about any storm. The story is told from what is mostly (with a few exceptions towards the end) a dual perspective. Sam POV chapters are of first-person narrative which showcases his emotional turmoil and disorientation during said summer of 1963. These are intertwined with Hilary POV chapters relying the events of winter 1962 in South Africa but the latter refer to her in 3rd person so the reader isn’t really privy to many of her thoughts. The mystery is kept up. We keep on guessing and wondering, grasping for clues. I didn’t expect this book to be what it was. I don’t think I knew what to expect but something about a historically set murder mystery and a frowned upon friendship between the two main characters drew me in. And boy, had I good instincts! Now that I’m done with it, I can say it reminded me of Wilbur Smith’s stories, even if just ever so slightly and possibly because his are the only books I have read that are set in Southern parts of Africa. Still though, it did. As regards the writing style, the author’s prose has something of Andre Aciman’s in it. “Swimming with Horses” is written with a lyrically beautiful fatality. When you begin reading, it feels like you’ve only just been given pieces of a puzzle, you’ve only just begun arranging them, making sense of them but you’re well aware that it won’t end well, that the last, final image won’t be naïve or innocent or without blemish. Disordered pieces tell you as much but that’s life for these characters you’re just meeting for the first time, their life choices and their circumstances create the flaws, not that they can’t be meaningful all the same, despite that or exactly because of it all, leaving impact and almost as if… perfect? along the way. I won’t tell you what you should brace yourselves for because the discovery I’ve made on the pages of this book still resonates too deeply within me and I: a) wouldn’t know how to put it into words, b) I don’t wish to spoil you the excitement of finding out for yourselves at your own pace. I will say this though: I felt utterly transported into a different time and place. That, ultimately, is what literature of any genre should be all about but the surprise of how this particular book affected me, took me aback so much I’m still mentally dizzy from the adventure it sprang on me. There were tears but there were audible outbursts of laughter in public, too. Also, for your information and it seems relevant to mention this, I’ve never ridden a horse but now I wish I had for I would have known everything and lived through the story even deeper. It’s probably redundant to add but I’ll say it anyway: I loved it and I would recommend it to all readers who aren’t afraid to take chances and wander off track a bit, fumbling for terrific stories out of their standard comfort zone. Or just those who enjoy historical fiction or murder mysteries or just very solid (or even stellar!) adult fiction (yes, I know, they are teenagers but somehow I can’t label this book as ‘young adult’, it doesn’t sit right). **massive thank you to the publishers and Edelweiss for providing an arc in exchange for a fair and honest review**

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elite Group

    A MUST READ. It’s a MUST READ because it is such a profound and beautifully written book. “Her departure merely confirmed what they had believed all along. That girl was trouble. And she was. I know she was. I know better than anyone.” This is Sam Mitchell’s description of Hilary Anson, a South African girl in her late teens who arrives in the Summer of1963 to work as a groom for Colonel Barker at his equitation yard in Kelso, known as horse country, northwest of Toronto. Hilary is not like anyon A MUST READ. It’s a MUST READ because it is such a profound and beautifully written book. “Her departure merely confirmed what they had believed all along. That girl was trouble. And she was. I know she was. I know better than anyone.” This is Sam Mitchell’s description of Hilary Anson, a South African girl in her late teens who arrives in the Summer of1963 to work as a groom for Colonel Barker at his equitation yard in Kelso, known as horse country, northwest of Toronto. Hilary is not like anyone young naïve Sam has ever met before. They strike up a friendship, based mainly around their love for horses. Sam is not a very good rider, but with Hilary’s very free-spirited, sometimes reckless lessons in schooling horses, he starts to improve dramatically, even making the local competition team. It’s through these days out riding with Hilary that Sam gets some idea about the reason Hilary is in Canada. They spend hours during that summer swimming with their horses. Hilary Anson is the daughter of Daniel Anson, an influential businessman and Member of Parliament (National Security) in HF Verwoerd’s very conservative apartheid government. She first meets Muletsi Dadla, a groom working on her father’s horse stud, situated near Mooi River when he comes to her defence against her father's farm manager, Jack Tanner. Muletsi Dadla has a degree in English Literature from the University of Fort Hare. The only university where black students could study during the apartheid regime. He is working undercover for the ANC to find out as much as possible about Daniel Anson’s activities, and report on the various visitors he receives. Jack Tanner had repeatedly been raping Hilary for years, and when Muletsi sees him trying to attack her (yet again), he intervenes and injures the man. For someone who hates black people (always referring to them as Kaffirs) this is like a red rag to a bull, and Jack Tanner sets out to destroy not just Muletsi, but also Hilary. This is one of the most powerful, realistic novels I’ve ever read about South Africa. 1962/3 were hugely important years in my life (yes, I’m admitting I was around then!). It saw my last two years at school. Closeted from the real horrors that were being committed in South Africa by the reprehensible Verwoerd government. Oakland Ross, who is NOT South African, has managed to capture the very essence of what it must have been like for both Hilary and Muletsi meeting and falling in love at that very critical time. I have an affinity and connection to horses, so the riding, swimming and competitive side of this storyline had me enthralled. (Especially as I read the book while watching my daughter school horses in South Africa). I must salute Oakland Ross, not a South African, but Canadian, for taking the time and effort to ensure that this book is totally authentic. His portrayal of Hilary’s life, her family, the trauma she suffered at the hands of Jack Tanner, and her subsequent escape to Canada, was outstanding. His use of South African slang and the term “kaffir” to describe how Blacks were referred to during this period, was particularly pleasing to me. Few authors go to this amount of trouble when writing a book about a country they are not that familiar with. Oakland Ross has written a book I'd love everyone to read. The storyline is easy to follow, and the characters are so unique and so real. I could “see” them and follow their journey. The ending was particularly poignant. It reminded me of the horrors that the South African Government was prepared to go to, to destroy their enemies. Treebeard Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    This fast-paced, beautifully written book held my interest from start to finish. I'm not interested in horses, but Oakland Ross not only made me care about the horses in this book, he managed to convey their personalities and the challenges they represented to the characters so that a novice like me followed with pleasure. Similarly with the history of South Africa, which I don't know at all well. He has a gift for involving the reader, and a psychological insight into his hero, the cautious Sam This fast-paced, beautifully written book held my interest from start to finish. I'm not interested in horses, but Oakland Ross not only made me care about the horses in this book, he managed to convey their personalities and the challenges they represented to the characters so that a novice like me followed with pleasure. Similarly with the history of South Africa, which I don't know at all well. He has a gift for involving the reader, and a psychological insight into his hero, the cautious Sam Mitchell. Add to that the beautifully described South African landscape, and a tour de force, suspenseful ending (maybe two), and what's not to like? This book is a winner.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J.D. DeHart

    Screaming with real life and full of characterization, this is a book that offers literary perspective. It’s the first time that I’ve read Oakland Ross’s work, but hopefully not the last time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    DNF at 50 pages I'm reading Swimming with Horses: I got to busy reading for other book clubs, I was definitely engaged but need to request from the library again. I liked the young man, who narrates his fascination with a slightly older teenage woman (17), who has come on the scene escaping from a controversial event. Worth another look, to bad it was so slow in unraveling... DNF at 50 pages I'm reading Swimming with Horses: I got to busy reading for other book clubs, I was definitely engaged but need to request from the library again. I liked the young man, who narrates his fascination with a slightly older teenage woman (17), who has come on the scene escaping from a controversial event. Worth another look, to bad it was so slow in unraveling...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donald Schopflocher

    A slow buildup with a slam bang finish. However, novels with this kind of double structure - two points of view alternating, with one of the stories preceding the other in time- are difficult to bring off convincingly as the reader is constantly aware that he is being manipulated by the narrator. Here, especially, as one strand is in the first person, and the second has several third person povs. This makes it tough to get dragged along by the story, at least until the 80% point.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Hearder-moan

    I liked the way what “really” happened in South Africa, and later in Ontario, is revealed bit by bit but I wasn’t at all prepared for the bombshell in chapter 55 when we find out who killed Quinton Vasco. The coincidences, such as the presence of Quinton Vasco in both places, seem a bit much to accept, until you realize that nothing that happens is a coincidence.

  9. 4 out of 5

    C.S. O’Cinneide

    Captivating book. Full of both of coming of age summertime nostalgia as well as an international mystery. The plot kept me turning the pages. The beautifully rendered prose kept me impressed. Don't miss it. Captivating book. Full of both of coming of age summertime nostalgia as well as an international mystery. The plot kept me turning the pages. The beautifully rendered prose kept me impressed. Don't miss it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    ellie

    received an advance copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review like, its good. i just lost momentum i think. probably deserves a re-read from me when i'm not in the middle of exams. but it's good, just a bit slow received an advance copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review like, its good. i just lost momentum i think. probably deserves a re-read from me when i'm not in the middle of exams. but it's good, just a bit slow

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I ran and ran, and I suppose that I have kept on running all these years, ever since that pre-lapsarian afternoon in August 1963...." I ran and ran, and I suppose that I have kept on running all these years, ever since that pre-lapsarian afternoon in August 1963...."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Excellent read, hard to put down.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jan Hoffman

    Didn’t see the end coming!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

    Breathtaking writing and a story that keeps you hooked until the very last page.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    dang the plot twist is wild. I love it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ivory Castle

    Sam is a Canadian teenager with a love for horses. Hilary is the slightly older girl from South Africa with an amazing connection with horses and a reputation as being trouble. She offers to give him some riding lessons so he can make the grade for selection in an upcoming riding competition. Their lives have been very different yet they become friends via horses. What should be an idyllic time of their lives is threatened by the past and the present. Jack is the older man in charge of her father Sam is a Canadian teenager with a love for horses. Hilary is the slightly older girl from South Africa with an amazing connection with horses and a reputation as being trouble. She offers to give him some riding lessons so he can make the grade for selection in an upcoming riding competition. Their lives have been very different yet they become friends via horses. What should be an idyllic time of their lives is threatened by the past and the present. Jack is the older man in charge of her father’s horse stud in South Africa. He is a gifted horse person with a particular skill at manipulating young women. Muletsi is the well-educated African working as a stable boy who forms a relationship with Hilary. There was magic in this story. It sounds a little corny but it drew me in an almost spell like way and left me feeling like a spectator. Also discrimination is outside of my experience and those parts of the book left me slightly sad the characters did not receive basic human rights. There were a few moments when I held my breath eg maybe only a horse person can appreciate the problem posed by losing both stirrups during a cross country competition. I absolutely loved this book and there were so many things I could have said at the risk of giving too much away. You definitely don’t have to like horses to enjoy this. The author weaves the innocence of youth, racial discrimination/Apartheid, murder and more into a great storyline. Just want to say well done! A big thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free digital copy of the book in return for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Kiss

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Croth

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katelin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan Kappel

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janet And Her Books

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anisa

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Ritchie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gayle McPherson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Gallant

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gregor Robinson

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