Swimming Home was shortlisted for the 2012 Booker, and when Paddy O’Reilly recommended it to me, I ordered it from the library straight away.
It’s an intriguing book, extremely unsettling. It begins with a body floating in the pool but that’s not the mystery that swirls around the reader, it’s only the catalyst for a surreal exploration of the ‘British Family on Holiday on the Continent’, a family that has brought its problems with them. This is no idyll on the Riviera …
The Sunday Times described this novel as ‘sharp as a wasp sting‘ and that’s a perfect metaphor. Time and again in this short novel of only 157 pages there is an image which punctures the reader’s expectations. Joe, 57, a philanderer and a poet turns out not to be the stiff-upper-lipped Brit that we thought he was. His wife, Isobel, is a war correspondent who thinks it’s better not to know about everything. Nina, a tiresome 14 year-old, turns out to be wiser than almost all of them, and Madeleine Sheridan isn’t the harmless old lady that she first appears.
But it’s Kitty Finch who’s the most memorable character. As soon as she announces that she’s stopped taking her medication she becomes more vivid, more startling and compelling. Everyone seems transfixed by her and yet no one seems to see what’s going to happen except the reader.
Thanks for recommending it, Paddy!
Kim at Reading Matters reviewed it too.
Author: Deborah Levy
Title: Swimming Home
Publisher: And Other Stories, 2011
Source: Kingston Library