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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any competitive swimmer
For anyone who has ever trained at any standard of competitive swimming any where in the world, this book is a must-read. For anyone who hasn't adhered to a sports training regime, it's still a great read. From the chlorine fumes to the aching muscles, from the routine of early morning starts in a pool to the craving for all things sweet post-training, this book captures...
Published on 30 Aug 2012 by Jules Bissett

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a mixed bag
I loved Shapton's book; 'Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry.' It was one of my books of the year a few years ago. When the opportunity came to review this I jumped at it.

The previous book was clever and touching. It mixed art, photography and narrative...
Published 22 months ago by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a mixed bag, 3 Nov 2012
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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I loved Shapton's book; 'Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry.' It was one of my books of the year a few years ago. When the opportunity came to review this I jumped at it.

The previous book was clever and touching. It mixed art, photography and narrative in a way that I had never really come across before, and it was a mesmerising read. This book, Swimming Studies, worked less well for me. It charts Shapton's feelings about swimming, both competitively, which she has done since she was a child, and as a leisure activity. It is basically a series of essays about her experiences, interspersed with black and white paintings, colour paintings and photographs of swimming pools, bodies in the water, and various swimming costumes.

Some of the essays really worked. I thought the musings on sharks was effective and interesting, the descriptions of swim meets frankly bored the pants off of me. I really wasn't that interested in photos of her swimming costume collection, but I did find the studies of various pools quite intriguing.

It was a mixed bag altogether. There are moments when the quirkiness of her work and the subject matter collide with interesting results. There are others where it totally doesn't. It wasn't a difficult read. It is actually quite a short work, but it didn't engage me throughout and I found myself slightly disappointed on more than one occasion as I read through the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for any competitive swimmer, 30 Aug 2012
This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
For anyone who has ever trained at any standard of competitive swimming any where in the world, this book is a must-read. For anyone who hasn't adhered to a sports training regime, it's still a great read. From the chlorine fumes to the aching muscles, from the routine of early morning starts in a pool to the craving for all things sweet post-training, this book captures it all. Leanne Shapton was a teenager in Canada who trained for the Olympic trials and, even if you only ever competed at a lot lower level, her love/hate relationship with swimming is easy to relate to - and understandable, too, considering she was immersed in water for the best part of her week. "I wasn't the best; I was relatively fast. I trained, ate, travelled, and showered with the best in the country, but wasn't the best; I was pretty good." She never did quite make the Canadian team and eventually she quit her sport. Leanne became an artist, author and designer and relates her training schedule days and attitude to swimming to her dedication to her art now, even being drawn to creating images of water. Her obsession endearingly included setting her microwave to 1:11:00 - the time in which she wanted to swim 100m breaststroke in 1987. In 2012, she still dreams of "practice, of races, coaches and blurry competitors" - ahhh, don't we all?...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for swimmers, probably, and decorated with idiosyncratic art, 24 Mar 2013
By 
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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Vine offered me this book, and as a parent of a heavy duty swimmer I felt that I had to read it, even if only to see if others went through the same rigour of early morning risings and endless weekends sitting through galas.

Yes, Shapton really did work as hard as she says, it rings entirely true, and like the rest of the world bar a few exceptionally talented and driven individuals, she did not quite make it to the very top level. It is so disheartening to have committed so much of your life to a cause and then not quite succeeded, especially when getting as tantalisingly close as Shapton did.

Some of it is very funny, quite a lot is poignant or enigmatic. It tends to be verbal snapshots from different occasions loosely sequenced between flashback and recent, very easy to dip in and out of without becoming either wiser or losing the plot. Most non-swimmers will probably soon be lost and give up on it. But I quite liked it, until the art and costume photos intruded, and I still don't see why they were included.

On balance I'm glad I read it, but I think most non-swimmers will soon become bored by it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Water is elemental, it's what we're made of, what we can't live within or without.', 5 Dec 2013
By 
purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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Leanne Shapton starts her book with a description of water and explains how for her 'Ttrying to define what swimming means to me is like looking at a shell sitting in a few feet of clear still water. There it is, in sharp focus, but once I reach for it, breaking the surface, the ripples refract the shell. It becomes five shells, twenty-five shells, some smaller, some larger, and I blindly feel for what I saw perfectly before trying to grasp it.'

Like some of the other reviewers I was draw to this book by Leanne Shapton's Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry, which was fascinating. In this memoir Shapton explores the impact swimming had on her life. Post London's 2012 Olympics we've had a reminder of the dedication that swimming training requires and Shapton put in the work and nearly, but not quite, made the Canadian Olympic team. She tells us how her heart broke when her coach, Mitch, didn't speak to her after she decided to quit. She tells us how her mother put in nearly as much work driving her to practices and meets. She explores the meditative quality of swimming now and what occurs to her as she counts her laps. She spent years focused on swimming, on times, on minute improvements. She recognises it as an obsession and also how its discipline transferred to her approach to her art.

It's an interesting read, but one to be dipped into, rather than read than a cover to cover.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story and an original telling., 31 Aug 2013
By 
A. I. McCulloch "Andrea" (Co Durham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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The dedication required by sportspeople to reach the top of their sport is well-documented, and swimming is a sport that demands more than most. Leanne Shapton got as far as the Canadian Olympic Trials -twice- and here she documents the long, long journey and the sacrifices that took her there, with reflections on what swimming means to her now.

Rather than a straight narrative, the book jumps around in a series of essays, including Leanne's early days in swimming, the sacrifices of her parents (particularly her mother), her relationships and marriage, and her feelings on being a recreational swimmer, flirting with the idea of competition.

Anyone who isn't interested in competitive sport will find this book less rewarding, anyone who does swim at anything approaching a serious level will find much to identify with. There are lengthy descriptions of swimming meets, pen portraits of fellow competitors, and a series of semi-abstract portraits of fellow swimmers.

All the illustrations in the book have a link with the title; all are swimming studies of some description, though I did wonder if the costumes on a mannequin were really essential. I was also slightly puzzled by their appearance - anyone who swims regularly knows that swimsuits quickly deteriorate, rotted by chlorine, but all these costumes looked pristine.

Leanne Shapton is a gifted, highly reflective writer and this often saves the day, as she is able to bring interest to what could be boring repetitious descriptions of hours in the pool , and engage us with what could otherwise be the somewhat colourless characters peopling her book. An original idea and executed well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Print books RULE!, 20 Mar 2013
By 
Ponytail (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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I'll admit, I wanted this book anyway, after reading an excerpt in a newspaper. It did not disappoint. To describe it would sound strange, but it's basically someone talking about her life as a competitive swimmer, and what when the racing stops. It's not really a biography, as the author doesn't talk about her non-swimming life events much (she gets married at some point, but there's very little mention of it, although her husband does feature in the narrative).
The (hardback) book is beautifully produced, not a surprise when you realise that the author is now an artist and designs book covers for a living. The pages are lovely thick paper, and her illustrations are gorgeous. I did think the last few pages of pool shapes were a bit self-indulgent but still found myself seeing if I could recognise any pool that I might have swum in. I also really liked the collection swimsuits, though I could see that a more critical reader might think it was padding to increase the book's page count. I just can't see how this would work as an e-book, the look and feel of the book is so important when you realise the author designed it.
I think it helps to be a swimmer to enjoy this book, but you don't have to be, and you certainly don't have to be a competitive athlete to find her thoughts the rigours and trials of training, the competition with other teenagers, the effects it has/had on her family. Most sports biographies tend to be of very successful athletes - this is one by someone who almost made it, but not quite, and one which focuses on the swimming, not on the personal life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A life in water, 24 Nov 2012
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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Leanne Shapton is a competitive swimmer turned artist, at one point ranking eighth in Canada and competing in Olympic trials. "Swimming Studies" is her memoir of a life spent swimming, one shaped by early morning starts, pain, and hours and hours of training. Watching her husband, by contrast, bathing in the sea she realizes 'he doesn't see life as rigor and deprivation. To him it's something to enjoy, where the focus is not on how to win, but how to flourish'.

Episodes from Shapton's life are interspersed with her art: beautiful blurred watercolours in greys and blues, photographic lists of her swimming costumes, and outlines of pools she has known. Overall this is an enjoyable and thoughtful book, giving a fascinating insight into life as an athlete and after. Sometimes Shapton's reminiscences felt rather inconsequential, but as her writing is so good, ultimately this doesn't really matter.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Gets annoying, 16 May 2014
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
This starts off really well and has a beautiful layout but after all the younger years stuff you become very aware of this just being a massively rich woman who has this incredible life jetting off around the world and you're supposed to feel sorry for her or something. Nah.
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4.0 out of 5 stars There is something compelling about the subject matter, 16 Mar 2014
By 
P. Barclay "professional technophile" (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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Leanne Shapton details her formative years as a would-be Olympic swimming hopeful in Canada. She writes poetically with short, rhythmic sentences. Whilst submerged in the water, Leanne Shapton is ‘deprived of taste, scent, sound, and most sight’, ironically in her book we are exposed to all senses though minutiae of day-to-day living. We bob up and down on a sea of description – one moment she is competing in Canada and the next minute, she is swimming in open water in London. All this is juxtaposed with modern art illustrations which includes viewing swimming as the shapes of pools she visits. Her mental health deteriorates after Leanne ceases competitive swimming and it is only when she returns to the waters that her health simultaneously improves. Is there life after the rigours and discipline of swimming? Leanne explores her art and thoughts as she continues to submerge in the swimming pools and open waters around the world. The noise of competitive swimming continually gets drowned out by the silence of art and introspection and by being underwater.

The author gives us a unique insight into the world of competitive swimming – as seen through the eyes of this Canadian Olympic hopeful - the hours she trained up and down, the food, rivalries, timings and tapering to get there. It is interesting and beautifully portrayed. The author becomes more introspective as her life becomes more devoted to art after she leaves the intensity of the swimming arena.

Swimming and art are viewed as disciplines – Leanne experiences a mental breakdown after giving up serious swimming and the juxtaposition of art and swimming details on the pages mirrors this – there is a cacophony of competitions, training and pictures. Can you ever truly give up swimming? Can you move on and find a new focus? The author struggles which suggests perhaps not.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, but I enjoyed it, 3 Mar 2014
By 
sam (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Swimming Studies (Hardcover)
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I have to say that I've really enjoyed this book. It is a touch self-indulgent but all the more engaging because of the very personal nature of the episodes described. The hopping back and forth between current events, adult memories and child memories of swim competitions give it a raw, stream of conciousness feeling, as if the writer is re-living those events.. and their re-living has become so real that they are jumbled with present life.

Naturally, like many memoirs, it doesn't have a shape, but each little story is tangy and worth tasting.
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Swimming Studies
Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton (Hardcover - 26 July 2012)
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