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Swimming Home [Paperback]

Deborah Levy
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

10 Sep 2012

As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe's enigmatic wife allow her to remain?

Profound and thrilling, Swimming Home reveals how the most devastating secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (10 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571299601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571299607
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 12.4 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Deborah Levy's storytelling is allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute... This is a prizewinner.' --The Independent

A stealthily devastating book ... Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader ... This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast. --The Daily Telegraph

'Swimming Home is as sharp as a wasp sting' --Sunday Times

'Levy's first novel in 15 years is a hair-raiser, short, simple and devastating.' --George Pendle, Financial Times Books of the Year

Book Description

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 106 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not waving but drowning. 11 Oct 2012
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
I know that I am swimming against the tide here but reviews are personal - and personally, I didn't like this book (actually, more of a novella) one bit.

The writing is pretentious, riddled with symbolism, and the characters are impossible to warm to. Fortunately, the reader doesn't have to spend too much time in their company. I disagree with other reviewers about the book being light on plot. If anything, I found it plot-heavy for the ephemeral style of writing. But I do agree with J. M. Gardner who found echoes of Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow. If you like middle-aged, middle-class people sitting round a swimming pool discussing - or actually, not discussing but thinking about their varying degrees of angst, then maybe this is a book that will appeal to you. And talking of swimming pools, here was a point about the book that jarred for me from the outset. The pool at the South of France villa where two couples and the teenage daughter of one of the couples is spending the summer is green. It is described on page 5 as being "more like a pond". For me, this was a complete deal-breaker in terms of credibility right there. There is NO WAY anybody is going to put up with a dirty pool on a long-term summer holiday villa let. It may sound a trivial point but I just knew from that point that I was never going to believe in these people. Here is the cast list:

Joe, devoted father of the teenager, famous poet, serial philanderer and guilty Holocaust survivor.
Wife, Isabel, successful war correspondent who has put her career before her daughter.
Mitchell, unsuccessful seller of bric-a-brac, foodie and gun-collector.
His wife, Laura, a giant of a woman and potentially the most interesting character of the lot, but woefully underwritten.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars When will I learn? 17 Mar 2013
Every time I read a book that mentions the Man Booker prize, I am dissapointed. This was no exception. I think the premise was a good one, but this promising book failed to deliver on every level. Is this a novel, novella or short story? I could barely get a handle on the characters, they were written so thinly. The conversations were mean spirited and not at all realistic. I can't even be bothered to finish this review. read it if you must, but I suggest you save your money and your eyesight for something more worthy. ugh.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Glad it wasn't just me .... 11 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
who found it impossible to see why this novel was short-listed for the Booker. Poorly written, unconvincing and pretentious ...the book reads like a preliminary sketch for a novel with characters barely realized, half-created to illustrate some historical or psychological point - the worst of these being the 'poet' Jozef Jacobs as a child abandoned by his parents in Poland during the war (embarrassing in comparison with, for example Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces) - and the supposedly beautiful and enigmatic Kitty Finch who succeeds only in being profoundly irritating. Tom McCarthy praises Deborah Levy in part because she knows her Lacan, Barthes, Deleuze etc etc - all I can say is that they have done her no service whatsoever. I have never written an Amazon review before but this book, and the way it has been hyped, made me so angry that I went straight online to do so ... and OK, I may be a pedantic teacher of English, but the use of 'like' in place of 'as if' is unforgivable.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars less than meets the eye 5 Dec 2012
Like other reviewers, I wanted to like this book. It's short, clearly and in places elegantly written. I've no particular objection to stories about middle-class intellectuals in the south of France: I'd like to be one myself! But the further I got, the more I had the strange sensation that although I could understand what what was going on, I had no idea of the significance of any of the events, and therefore no involvement with the characters or, really, any understanding of the novel at all. The fact that the writing had a kind of pellucid clarity made this all the more frustrating. And, yes, I do understand that it draws on Freud, Lacan, Derrida, et al, and I've no objection to that either. But knowing the theories shouldn't be a prerequisite of understanding the novel. You don't need to know about existentialism to grasp and enjoy 'L'Etranger'. I think the writer is aiming for a sort of Muriel Spark effect: an air of vague but powerful threat--but she lacks her narrative gift.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Style Over Substance 14 Oct 2012
Unfortunately the characters within this novella suffer underwriting for the benefit of style and self-conscious minimalism. Critics have praised it for the 'power of what is unsaid', but I think this may be generous collaboration on the part of some readers, as only wafer thin outlines of characters are established. The main character, Kitty, who is supposed to amuse/bemuse/enchant/disgust is painfully idiosyncratic, a crude charicature of manic depression- leaving one to wonder how anyone could be obsessed with, rather than just plain annoyed, by her.

The atmosphere is tense but a tableau, as we are constantly reminded that we are reading a work of extended prose- none of the characters are fleshed out enough for us to really care who is to be the casualty of the impending tragedy/crisis that the consecutive awkward scenarios are obviously building up to.

This would have worked well as a short story, but doesn't have the meat for a satisfying longer read. The last chapter feels like a 'cop-out' that is not only tonally out of place, but discredits the author as having missed a trick by not having as Epitaph what we all wanted to eventually read: *that* poem. I'm sure Philosophy fans will insist that this is the beauty of it: does it matter what the poem was? Is it not just symbolic? Etc etc . Maybe in a short story, fair enough, but not in a novel/la. It was a final chance to show depth to the characters, and even, if necessary, assert a statement about loss, longing, passion and death that the book seems desperate to do but never commits to.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 days ago by Penny Green
4.0 out of 5 stars By a poor swimmer!
Not an easy read but worth the effort for the twist at the end. I recommended this book for my Book Group as it was fairly short and I know everyone is busy in their gardens this... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sonia Motley
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of those books I got into straight away
Published 2 months ago by Marie Haws
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex and fascinating
The Jacobs family arrive at their holiday villa in the south of France. Joe, the poet, Isabel the war correspondent, their 14 year old daughter, and their two friends, Laura and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by The Book Witch
2.0 out of 5 stars Novel set in Alpes-Maritimes, France (“..a small, hot, chaotic...
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012, this is a short novel set in the Alpes-Maritimes. A family story set in 1994 in a villa with a pool. Read more
Published 4 months ago by TripFiction
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful pretentious rubbbish
Hated this - no plot, unappealing characters - just awful. Really not worth reading even for nothing - don't bother.
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you think
Story of a famous writer on holiday with his family and friends at a house in the south of France. An unexpected guest makes an appearance in the form of female temptation which... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Erin Brooks
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written...
...loved it.

Very visual, very poetic. Fairly slight but none the worse for it. The images resonate for long after you've finished.
Published 6 months ago by SecretsofVoodoo
2.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written but not a page turner
This book is delightfully written with proses that paints a picture of the characters. The plot is a bit thin, but there again I have not completely finished it and have got to the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Barbara Sieczko
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful style of writing
This is the first time that I have read a book written by Deborah Levy and I shall certainly be looking to read more. I was very taken by this book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by L. James
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