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Comment: exlibrary hardcover book in mylar jacket with light wear, shows some light reader wear throughout ,all the usual library marks and stamps.
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The First Rule of Swimming: A Novel Hardcover – May 28, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316217387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316217385
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Luka, the patriarch of a family of fishermen living on the Croatian island of Rosmarina, taught everyone to swim, establishing a “first rule” with a profound implication—“Stay afloat.” A place of commanding beauty and painful memories in the wake of war and Communist oppression, Rosmarina calls to Luka even after he falls into a coma, though his daughter, Ana, flees the island in anger with her young daughters, Magdalena and Jadranka. As in her story collection, Stillness (2003), and memoir, The Stone Fields (2004), Whiting Award winner Brkic draws on her Croatian heritage and Bosnian war experiences in her sinuous and suspenseful first novel as she tracks the paths of solitary teacher Magdalena, who becomes firmly anchored to Rosmarina, and elusive artist Jadranka, who, with her shimmering, red-haired beauty, resembles no one else in the family and changes everyone’s lives by going to New York City and clandestinely searching for their missing uncle. In her exquisitely crafted, superbly structured novel, Brkic summons undertones of Greek tragedy to create her arresting characters and their intense emotions and dire secrets. By dramatizing nuanced questions of who is at fault, who can be trusted, and who will sink or swim, Brkic reveals persistent, multigenerational wounds of war, sacrifice, exile, and longing and imagines how healing might commence. --Donna Seaman

Review

"With empathy and poetic grace....Layers of the family's history slip away and truth---involving betrayal, thwarted love, and ultimately reconciliation---is shiningly revealed....The First Rule of Swimming examines lives bruised and twisted by history, like weather-beaten trees that nevertheless manage to produce the sweetest fruit."
---Brooke Allen, New York Times Book Review

"Suspenseful....Brkic traces three generations of family history, revealing the wounds of war, exile, and betrayal. The revelations are well paced, and Brkic deftly walks the line between the sentimental and the intimate. The novel draws its narrative force from the characters' desire to protect family and to survive at all costs."
---The New Yorker

"In her exquisitely crafted, superbly structured novel, Brkic summons undertones of Greek tragedy to create her arresting characters and their intense emotions and dire secrets. By dramatizing nuanced questions of who is at fault, who can be trusted, and who will sink or swim, Brkic reveals persistent, multigenerational wounds of war, sacrifice, exile, and longing and imagines how healing might commence."
---Donna Seaman, Booklist [starred review]

"A sensitive tale of deep emotional force."
---Kirkus


"This compact, beautiful novel of two island sisters deftly explores what it is to love a place, a person, and the lengths to which one will go to defend them. Brkic is adept at depicting both the timeless paradise of the island, Rosmarina, and the way its brutal history has scarred a family for generations."
---Janet Fitch, author of Paint It Black and White Oleander

"Courtney Angela Brkic seamlessly negotiates past and present, silence and secrets, to reveal one family's enduring love-as profound and as perilous as the sea surrounding their island home. With beautiful images and characters that are vividly real, The First Rule of Swimming is a delicately written work of art, about history and memories and the grief at their fading and loss."
---Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter and Sight Reading

"Between the dazzling light of an Adriatic island and the gritty streets of New York City, an intriguing world of possibilities - past, present and future - arises. Part-mystery and part-family saga, The First Rule of Swimming explores the variety of ways in which the physical and psychological landscape of a place can be altered forever by politics and immigration."
---Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day and Property

"Think of your most cherished memory. Now think of your saddest memory. What if the two were so connected to each other that one couldn't exist without the other? You'd have to find a way to forge forward, containing the pain and beauty, both. And you'd find a way. Because you must. And Courtney Angela Brkic's tender and tough novel The First Rule of Swimming could be your guide. In which case, you'd be in the best of hands."
---Joshua Furst, author of The Sabotage Café and Short People

"Brkic is a shimmering talent. She writes with precision and power about three generations of a family caught in a cycle of war, sacrifice, love, and loyalty. Brkic's portrayal of the family's brutal, mysterious transformation is held in perfect tension, and tenderly told in language that is as fluid and crystal-clear as the island seascape around which the story revolves. The thing that perhaps stays most with me about this book is its heart: vulnerable, resilient, generous."
---Mei Ng, author of Eating Chinese Food Naked

More About the Author

Courtney Angela Brkic is the author of The First Rule of Swimming (Little, Brown, and Company, 2013), Stillness: and Other Stories (FSG, 2003) and The Stone Fields (FSG, 2004). Her work has also appeared in Zoetrope, The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Harpers & Queen, the Utne Reader, TriQuarterly Review, The Alaska Review and National Geographic, among others. Brkic has been the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Whiting Writer's Award. Stillness was named a Barnes and Noble Discover pick, a 2003 Chicago Tribune "Best Book" and a 2003 New York Times "Notable Book". The Stone Fields was shortlisted for a Freedom of Expression Award by the Index on Censorship. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband and son, and teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Maxine McLister on June 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
"The first rule of swimming...is to stay afloat"

In this beautiful novel, Luka explained this, first to his son and daughter and then his granddaughters, as he teaches them to swim - an extremely important lesson when you live on an island but just as important as you make your way in life. The island is Rosmarina in Croatia, a country torn apart, first by a brutal Communist regime and, after the fall of Communism, by an equally brutal civil war. Luka's family has been effected by both, forcing them to live with secrets which are destroying them. Some have been forced to flee to the United States to avoid imprisonment; his daughter has moved to the mainland to escape her past; and now it is his granddaughters who are being forced to bear the burden.

Jadranka, the youngest, has always been a free spirit, artistic and beautiful. She often disappears for long periods of time but never before without telling her sister, Magdalena. But when she disappears in New York, Magdalena does what she once thought impossible, she leaves her beloved island to find her sister. As she searches for her sister, many of the old secrets start to unravel and much of what she thought she knew about her family has been wrong. If she is to stay afloat, she must be willing to follow the path she is on and accept the truth no matter where it takes her.

I will admit here, that my first reason for requesting this book on Netgalley was the cover -something this lovely just begs to be read. But, the more I read, the more engrossed I became in the lives and secrets of this family. This a beautiful and compelling tale of a family divided by secrets and by time and place. These are complex characters with motives which are not always apparent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By iheartbooks on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the book because Amazon recommended that if I liked 1000 Splendid Suns I would like this, and it takes place in Croatia....my favorite vacation spot. I've read 32 books this year (all different genres) and this is the best by far. Not only did it bring back memories of a great vacation, but the book was so layered with stories from WWII, The Croatian War of Independence, and peacetime. It had drama, family secrets through the generations, and learning to love your family again after perceived betrayal. I read it in 2 days, I couldn't put it down.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jenni M. Parks on May 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It seems rather fitting that just after reading and reviewing a novel last week centered on two brothers that I would pick up The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic, a gripping story of two sisters. Magdalena and Jadranka are from a small sheltered Croatian island and their lives and those of their whole family have been shaped by a war that tested the bounds of their family's loyalty. In the Babic family, keeping secrets pushes loved ones away and years later revealing secrets proves just as forceful, propelling Jadranka to run straight into danger, her uncle Marin and her mother Ana to face emotions they'd long since buried, and Magda to begin a journey across the ocean that will ultimately change her circumstances forever.

Brkic has crafted a story that is heavy with emotion and draws out our sympathy for not only the protagonist, Magda, but her entire cast of supporting characters. Each member of the Babic family has a complex persona derived from their past experiences and unique point of view.

This is a great summer read.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By The Baking Bookworm on July 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm (www.thebakingbookworm.blogspot.ca).

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Thoughts: I have to admit that I'm a total sucker for a great book cover. I've passed by many a book mainly due to the cover. If it doesn't grab me and stand out amongst the other books on the shelf I will probably pass it by. Too many books, so little time and all that. This is one beeeautiful cover so I noticed it right away when I was perusing all that NetGalley had to offer the reading beast that dwells within me.

What next drew me to this book was the premise. Oh I do so loves me a book filled with family secrets and skeletons in closets! Throw in a culture that I can learn more about and a mystery and I'm in heaven! Unfortunately I didn't find this book nearly as suspenseful or riveting as I was initially expecting.

The First Rule of Swimming just didn't grab my interest and I didn't feel a connection with the main characters. The sisters definitely had their share of hardships and secrets but even those didn't engage me enough. The premise is good but the pace lags and it was really hard for this reader to keep at it.

I think a big reason that I didn't connect with the book is that very little background was given about Croatia's history. Readers get dropped into the middle of (what I've since learned is) Croatia's struggle for independence from Yugoslavia. Not being given this information made it quite confusing at times.
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