`Swimming Home' by Deborah Levy is a story of love and depression. It is one of many books by Deborah Levy and follows the same layout as some of her other books with the chapters being days of the week and following on with subheadings throughout the book. Set in a French villa over one week, the novel tells the story of a family on holiday that discover a mysterious naked lady in their pool, Kitty Finch, and the complications that she causes for the family, in particular Joe. Although this may seem intriguing, unfortunately the plot fails to thrill and captivate throughout the rest of the book making it a struggle to read.
The characters in the book are briefly introduced and little is revealed about them, which makes it hard for the reader to connect with each of them. Joe, a famous poet, and Isabel, a war correspondent who chooses work frequently over her daughter, are married with Nina, their 14-year-old daughter. They are on holiday with their friends Mitchell, an unsuccessful businessman, and his wife, Laura. Kitty Finch, the naked lady who was found in the pool, is a peculiar lady and a character that you wish to unravel and uncover her story, however, the reader is left irritated by her personality and with little information about her past. There is also an `inadequate caretaker', Jurgen, and an old lady who lives next door to the villa, Madeleine Sheridan, who used to be a shrink.
During the week, the chemistry between Kitty and Joe becomes apparent as she fights for his attention and they bond over their poetry. However, it becomes unclear what is done out of love and what is done as the product of a depressed state of mind. This tale of love is not as straight forward as a usual romantic novel; it covers all the shades in-between.
The book depicts the characters' thoughts with little speech that could confuse the reader. The pages must be deciphered as Deborah Levy writes in tangents as her creative mind prevails causing her to cut from scene to scene leading the reader to potentially find it hard to engage with the story line and the characters. However, the writing style reflects the mood of the book and could be said to illustrate the complexity and jaggedness of a depressed mind.
`Swimming Home', shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012, is a profoundly confusing novel that, I, personally, found a struggle to engage with and it did not retain my attention. A positive of the book is that there are many well-written sentences that are extremely descriptive, thought provoking and intriguing; `A battered yellow lilo knocked against the mossy sides, scattering the bees that were in various stages of dying in the water.' Although the illustrative sentences add depth and understanding, they become tedious, as they are a frequent occurrence on each page.
The theme of the story is dark and mysterious yet the sections of the book that you wish to go into more detail leave you frustrated, as they are limited in information. You are left with scenarios that leave you feeling in dismay and disheartened. This book was a struggle to read for these reasons and therefore hard to recommend.