Book Review: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
November 10, 2012 32 Comments
This book was short-listed for the Man Booker prize. I don’t search out books that are on shortlists, but I came across this short book at Netgalley. It seemed interesting. And it was. Quite a literary book, as you may expect from a Booker nominee, worth a read.
Swimming Home: What it is about
From the publishers: “As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe’s enigmatic wife allow her to remain?
A subversively brilliant study of love, Swimming Home reveals how the most devastating secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.”
Swimming Home: What I thought
Joe is a well-known poet who spends a holiday with his wife and daughter, and another couple, at a villa in France. Then a young woman shows up and is given the spare room. Kitty Finch is a fan of Joe and writes poetry herself. She’s also mentally unstable. Soon, it becomes clear that this combination of characters will lead to an explosive ending of the novel.
The short novel exudes a holiday atmosphere, languid summer days in which not much happens. While this is pleasant to read, it also means the story is a little slow. A lot of what happens is in the minds of the characters.
The build-up was really well done. From the start it was clear that crazy Kitty will lead to trouble, but what actually happens in the end is unexpected.
I thought Kitty’s madness was a bit overdone. I can’t imagine people accepting her around them as she was. In fact, neighbour Madeline seemed to be the only one who cared. Also, daughter Nina seemed much younger than her 14 years; at first I thought she was about 8, the way she was treated by her parents. Otherwise, the characters were nicely flawed, as you might expect in real life, and they were convincing.
The novel includes themes as depression, finding one’s identity, finding what is one’s home, relationships. It’s only for people who value a literary novels and don’t mind a slow story line.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 176
First published: 2011 (UK, this USA edition 2012, Bloomsbury)
I got this book: for review from the publishers via Netgally
Genre: contemporary fiction
Have you read this book?
What did you think?