Neither the characters or the plot were able to hold my attention while I read this book, and the writing seemed disengaged from all of the events within the story. I am quite surprised it made it onto the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Maybe it will leave a different impression on me after I read other novels by Deborah Levy...
One of the most disturbing books I have read in a long time.
This is a seemingly conventional story of two middle-class couples on holiday in southern France which one expects to unfold in the usual way. However, the presence of a stranger who is obsessive and unstable changes everything and causes the characters to come undone. This is a novel about depression and creativity, about control and about the power of the past. The novel has its own rhythm and is disturbing. A worthy Booker nominee.
A stranger destroying an already-crumbling marriage hardly seems like a unique plot formula. However, as soon as the beautiful, deranged Kitty Finch shows up at an English family's villa in Nice, Deborah Levy's storytelling becomes allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her novel not only explores relationships; it also probes into the nature of childhood trauma, exile, depression and creativity.
"Swimming Home" uses spare but fresh prose to tell a tale from multiple viewpoints and several generations. At its centre sits poet Joe Jacobs, whose history as a Jewish child in the Polish woods haunts him. Together, Joe's teenaged daughter, Nina, and 80-year-old doctor Madeleine offer an authentic range of female experience while his seemingly victimized wife, Isabel, constantly upends readers' expectations.
This shocking novel harrowingly explores loss and longing, ending with the adult Nina's terrifying understanding that she can never know when the past begins and ends.
Although a small book, the story is very disturbing. A somewhat confusion conclusion as well. I choose this book because it was a finalist in the Man Booker Award books, it was a disturbing book on many levels. Not one of my favourites reads.
Spoiler Alert! I read this because it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and was surprised at how weak it was. Characters don't make sense, the writing is juvenile and the ridiculous story trajectory provoked in me a suspicion that Levy started this novel with a specific man in mind who she would like to see floating in a swimming pool. The spoiler here is not the dumb ending but that the book is not worth reading.
Great writing - it took me almost 3/4 of the way through the book before I cared about any of the characters, but once there I was fully engaged. Booker Shortlisted 2012
Amazingly concise and direct. I enjoyed it much more than Bring Up The Bodies, which won the Man Booker.
Deborah Levy's Swimming Home opens with a careering, hands-off-the-steering-wheel plunge down a perilous road. You're given little opportunity from the outset to catch your breath from there to the framing repetitions of this same ride towards the end of this slender, gripping novel.
The story's chronology commences with the startling arrival of an interloper and the even more startling invitation to the interloper to stay, amidst a group of vividly unhappy vacationers sharing a villa on the French Riviera. That intruder, Kitty Finch, makes her entrance as a mistaken dead body in the villa swimming pool. She proceeds via wiles combining Edie Sedgwick, Sylvia Plath and a mermaid to seduce or unsettle all of poet Joe Jacobs, his war correspondent wife Isabel, their teenaged daughter Nina, the Jacobs' guests Mitchell and Laura, villa house staff Jurgen and elderly villa neighbour Dr. Madeleine Sheridan.
You won't know until the very end if any of this largely unsympathetic but still fascinating cast of characters manage to swim home safely. As the story and voices linger long after you've finished this slim novel, you'll continue to wonder if, in fact, you assessed correctly who did swim home ... and even what is home, and if perhaps some found it instead by letting go and slipping under the surface.
I've just read the last page, and I am completely and utterly blown away by "Swimming Home." Rarely does a book hit squarely in the middle of me. Deborah Levy plunges readers into this contained and controlled world that feels crystalline and surreal. Swimming in this dream world that is littered with sharp edges, and a steady, off-kilter, pulsing rhythm, there is a compulsion to follow the beats that propel you to its tragic end.
Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely.
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