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Swimming Home Paperback – 10 Sep 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (10 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571299601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571299607
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By SueKich TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
This is a very short book but a dense one written in surreal, hypnotic and lyrical style. If you're looking for something realistic with a taut and defined narrative and `plot' then this may well be one to avoid. Concerned with post-Freudian ideas of desire and death, this is critically- and theoretically-informed in its concern with coherence and incoherence, surface and substance, the tension between the word and what is always unsayable. If this is already starting to irritate you, then this is certainly a book to avoid!

In lots of ways this is a typical Booker-list book: its appeal is an intellectual rather than an emotional one. There are some lovely images and phrases here ("Joe's poetry is more like a conversation with me than anything else... we are in nerve-contact"; `she was as receptive as it was possible to be, an explorer, an adventurer, a nightmare. Every moment with her was an emergency'), and the text itself exposes the latent menace in everyday objects: a toy rabbit, sugar mice, uneven walls.

There are some moments where the text becomes a little too obviously sign-posted for significance (the arms-dealer friend with his guns; the daughter who starts menstruating; the swimming pool) but overall this is a tense and edgy read concerned with existential unease: threatening, perilous and anxious.
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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
First off: don't read Tom McCarthy's introduction - it gives away the whole thing.

So, Swimming Home is a very short novel that starts with an intriguing two page snippet featuring a man who has been unfaithful He just wants to get back home to his family. Most of the rest of the novel is a dissection of how that situation arose.

The situation turns out to be a famous poet, Jozef Jacobs, on holiday with his wife and daughter and two family friends in the Alpes Maritime in France, mid 1994. Their holiday gets off to an unusual start as they find a stranger at their holiday villa. They welcome the stranger into their midst which, previous novels would suggest, is unlikely to end well. The strength in Swimming Home is that although the menace is ever present, it is not clear exactly how it will manifest itself. Who will end up hurting whom - and why?

The characterisation is not great. Only Kitty Finch, the interloper, seems to have any trace of a third dimension. It really isn't intended to be a character driven novel and the short length wouldn't offer the space for such depth. Instead, it all hinges on atmosphere and suspense, which is why Tom McCarthy's introduction is all the more reprehensible.

So where does Deborah Levy score in Swimming Home? Well, some of the imagery is memorable. Some of the phrasing is quite appealing. And there is real atmosphere. It's just it doesn't feel quite enough. And too much hinges on a poem of devastating power and significance, but the poem is never revealed. This starts out to be tantalising but ends up making the reader suspect that Levy was simply not able to create such a poem. The novel doesn't feel complete and the short-term gratification from reading it soon evaporates, leaving not much trace behind.

Swimming Home will pass some time (but not much time) but it's difficult to see it as anything more significant.
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