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Swimming Home: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Deborah Levy
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Short-listed for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. "Readers will have to resist the temptation to hurry up in order to find out what happens . . . Our reward is the enjoyable, if unsettling, experience of being pitched into the deep waters of Levy's wry, accomplished novel."--Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review

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.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This short but extraordinary novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012, takes place in the south of France, where two English couples and one’s teenage daughter are sharing a vacation home. One day a woman, Kitty Finch, emerges naked from the swimming pool and becomes the force field shaping the couples’ actions and those of the few secondary characters for the succeeding week. Kitty is, in the words of Levy’s spare and haunting prose, “a window that was waiting to be climbed through.” The tension between the two families—poet Joe (Jozef) Jacobs, his war correspondent wife, Isabel, and their daughter, Nina; and Mitchell and his wife, Laura—is palpable, and Levy’s surgically precise language insightfully reveals their characters with the intensity of a tightly controlled play. Levy’s changes of pace and tone, from poetic to vulgar, drive this very arresting novel—at times suggestive of D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf—to its unsettling conclusion. --Mark Levine

Review

'Deborah Levy's storytelling is allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute - This is a prizewinner.' JULIA PASCAL for THE INDEPENDENT 'Swimming Home is as sharp as a wasp sting' CHRISTINA PETRIE for THE SUNDAY TIMES '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

Product Details

  • File Size: 856 KB
  • Print Length: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (September 14, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00992OLN2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,873 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The difficult task of getting home safely September 24, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
"Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely." So says Kitty Finch, the central character in Swimming Home, a powerful, offbeat novel that explores the impact an intruding outsider has on the relationships of two couples who are sharing a vacation home in the Alps-Maritimes. Whether any of the vacationers will get home safely becomes the novel's burning question.

Philandering London poet Joe Jacobs (formally known as Jozef Nowogrodski), together with his wife Isabel (a war correspondent) and daughter Nina, are spending the summer of 1994 with Laura and Mitchell, the owners of a failing shop in Euston. The friends are enjoying the sun when they see a naked woman floating in the pool. The swimmer, Kitty French, isn't exactly stalking Joe Jacobs, but it's no coincidence that she's appeared at the villa. Isabel soon asks Kitty to stay on as a guest, a decision that surprises everyone else. Also vexed by Kitty's arrival is a neighbor, Dr. Madeleine Sheridan, who has an unhappy history with Kitty. Madeleine believes "human beings had to suffer real hardships before agreeing to lose their minds" and can find no excuse for Kitty's aberrant behavior.

Kitty clearly has mental health issues. She spends much of her time naked, she's off her antidepressants, and she was once institutionalized and subjected to shock treatments. Kitty seems determined to have Joe read a poem she has written ("Swimming Home"), which she describes as a conversation with Joe and no one else.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels of the year October 29, 2012
Format:Paperback
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy is a work of beauty. Every year I read a novel or two that take my breath away with their prose. Last year those were Please Look after Mom by Kyung-sook Shin and On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry. So far this year, this was the only book I've read and thought: wow! I'm sure I'll squeeze another one in before 2012 expires.

What did I like about this novel? Well, it would be easier to say what I did not like; the fact that I wasn't the one to write it.

At first the story seems quite simple. A couple, Joe and Isabel, a poet and his war correspondent wife, arrive for a holiday in the hills above Nice, France, accompanied by their young daughter and a friendly couple. So far so good, one would say. The thing is though, that there's more to this group of people that at first meets the eye. To start with the poet he is an egocentric man who's in love with his own voice and a womanizer. His wife doesn't really like him anymore, and seems to be looking for a way to break up the marriage. The other couple hides a big secret, and as for the daughter, well, to put it in a Chinese proverb way: she was cursed to be born in interesting times, and under unusual circumstances.

Things get even more complicated when Kitty Finch, a young and almost ethereal woman, shows up all of a sudden in their holiday villa. She claims that there was a mix-up in the reservation dates and now she has no place to stay.

Well, normally, given the setting and the circumstances, one would offer her a cup of tea and sent her on her way. Isabel though things differently, so she invites her to stay with them, knowing all too well that, sooner rather than later, Joe will go after her.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Expected More October 29, 2012
Format:Paperback
"Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely."

After spotting this on Netgalley I found myself intrigued but ultimately willing to wait for it to be published. A few days later the Shortlist for the 2012 Man Book Prize was announced and Swimming Home was included, so I decided it was fate that I stumbled upon this book yet again so I went ahead and snagged it.

Kitty, botanist, poet, and part-time exhibitionist suffering from depression, travels to France to meet poet Joe Jacobs who she insists she has a connection with. His wife, Isabel, inevitably gets invited to stay with him and his family and the couple that traveled with them. Isabel Jacobs, a war correspondent, is married to Joe; however, their marriage is in shambles and is obvious to anyone in their proximate vicinity. It is unclear to everyone why Isabel would allow such a girl as Kitty to stay with them, especially considering her obvious fascination with Joe.

"When Kitty Finch took her hand off the steering wheel and told him she loved him, he no longer knew if she was threatening him or having a conversation."

Swimming Home is a short yet trying read that could almost be considered a novella or even a vignette; a snapshot of that fateful week in France. The writing was intermittently lovely but I found myself unclear as to where the story was going. I can't help but feel I'm lacking in something by not being able to appreciate these 'literary masterpieces' as they should be. Comments were made by the judges of the Booker Prize this year that they're steering clear of mainstream books and that readability isn't high on their list of importance.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Tepid
That's how I felt about this uninspired and rather insipid story, with its clumsily manufactured intrigue for the sake of intrigue.
Published 1 month ago by Daryl J. Murphy
1.0 out of 5 stars It was a stupid story.
I didn't likeany of the characters. It was a stupid story.
Published 1 month ago by Cathiqb
3.0 out of 5 stars Why does Kitty Finch walk around naked all the time?
This book has a surprising, unanticipated ending, but until the very end I found it confusing. I couldn't keep track of the characters or how they were connected to each other. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Deborah
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read, but somewhat strange.
Published 1 month ago by Sarah H. Erman
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Literary Study
The lives of the beautiful literati who sip life's sweet delights, are unconnected and unresolved, so that death seems equivalent to life, rather than an escape from it, or a mean... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Geoff Crocker
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done!
A wonderful novel about love and secrets. Read the description, and if you think it sounds interesting in the slightest, you'll love it.
Published 2 months ago by Marvin
2.0 out of 5 stars as if you are like me, it all becomes clear in the last ...
I found this novel rather odd, but perhaps that's because its just not my type of novel. Do read to the end though, as if you are like me, it all becomes clear in the last... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amanda
3.0 out of 5 stars not my fav
Well written, but so depressing and I couldn't stand any if the characters. Some insights into human nature, but mostly just people not talking or people prattling on.
Published 3 months ago by Red
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting and entertaining tale abut love, fame admiration and mental illness.
Published 3 months ago by Renata
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
didn't love it. barely okay.
Published 4 months ago by Kimberly Colvin
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