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Swimming Home [Paperback]

Deborah Levy , Tom McCarthy
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.00
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Book Description

8 Aug 2011
2012 MAN BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLISTED. Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams. Deborah Levy's writing combines linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting just beneath the surface. With its deep psychology, biting humour and deceptively light surface, it wears its darkness lightly.

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: And Other Stories (8 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908276029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908276025
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.3 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,873 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.' Julia Pascal, The Independent ---- A stealthily devastating book - Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader - This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.' Philip Womack, The Daily Telegraph ---- 'Swimming Home is a statement on the power of the unsaid. Magisterial - Themes, phrases and images recur in rhythmic cycles through this fugal novel. Levy's cinematic clarity and momentum convey confusion with remarkable lucidity.' Abigail Deutsch, TLS ---- 'Deborah Levy has made something strange and new - spiky and unsettling. In Swimming Home, home is elusive, safety is unlikely, and the reader closes the book both satisfied and unnerved.' John Self, The Guardian ---- 'Swimming Home is as sharp as a wasp sting.' Christina Petrie, Sunday Times ---- 'A compact treasure.' Boyd Tonkin, in his round-up of the year's best fiction, The Independent ---- 'Dark, sometimes humorous, intriguing and tragic, Levy's tale held me captive from its dramatic beginning' Lucy Popescu, The Tablet ---- 'Levy's strength is her originality of thought and expression.' Jeanette Winterson ---- 'I made notes to read as much as I can find by Deborah Levy' Bookslut.com ---- 'She is one of the few contemporary British writers comfortable on a world stage.' New Statesman ---- 'The strange brilliance of her imagination' The Independent ---- 'Levy is an exciting writer, sharp and shocking as the knives her characters wield.' Sunday Times

Book Description

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 101 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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30 of 33 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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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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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 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 24 days 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 1 month 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 3 months ago by L. James
1.0 out of 5 stars What on earth is this book about?
There is no sense of real characterization or even, in the portion of the book I managed to wade through, of any real story. Read more
Published 5 months ago by PBatBP
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't go there.
Yet another over-hyped book that was 'the must read' and we were all, once again, gullibly hooked.
This story is an aquatic version of Ali Smiths 'The Accidental'. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr. Leslie Wood
3.0 out of 5 stars Chekhov's gun.
This book was longlisted for the Booker prize, but I can see why "Swimming Home" did not win it. Whilst I enjoyed Deborah Levy's writing, the selection of the characters introduced... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lola
3.0 out of 5 stars "More like a pond than the languid blue pools in holiday brochures"
Contrary to the distinctly blue and holiday brochure-like pool depicted on the front cover of Levy's novel, she is quick to inform us that the pool is, in fact, "more like a pond". Read more
Published 6 months ago by T. Frankel
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
I was disappointed with the story line as I thought it was weak and over rated by others reviewing it.
Published 6 months ago by Linda Evans
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling
A Recognisable characters and a twist in the tale. An interesting portrait of the modern middle-class family. A shock ending.
Published 6 months ago by LyraB
1.0 out of 5 stars Yuk!
Full of cliches, ridiculous and pretentious metaphors, and quite unbelievably boring. So delighted to have finished it. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Keen Cook
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