Swimming Home Paperback – 10 Sep 2012
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'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
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Poet Joe Jacobs, and his wife Isabel the war correspondent plus 14-y-o daughter Nina are holidaying in the Riviera with old friends Mitchell and Laura.... Read morePublished 1 month ago by A. C. Dickens
I bought this book after reading Levy's HOT MILK book. I love her writing as you never know whats coming next. Read morePublished 2 months ago by sue j
Self conscious and a bit pretentious. I did not enjoy this book at all.Published 3 months ago by Captain Surname
this is a light and fragile book that has some haunting and powerful imagery.
unusually for me, I flipped through it again as soon as I had read it properly the first... Read more
I fear the empress has no clothes, like one of the characters. I was disappointed, couldn't engage with the book, finding it pretentious and overblown. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ian Hassall author of Hamba Gashle
I only continued cud it was a book club choice !! I'm either thick or it was an awful book !!Published 9 months ago by maxmum
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a convincing portrayal of a dysfunctional family in a beautiful location. I was sad to finish it.Published 13 months ago by lepcla