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Swimming Home Paperback – October 1, 2011

3.3 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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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


'Deborah Levy's storytelling is allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute - This is a prizewinner.' Julia Pascal, The Independent -------- '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, The New York Times Book Review -------- 'A stealthily devastating book - Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader - This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.' Philip Womack, The Daily Telegraph -------- 'Deborah Levy's brilliant Swimming Home is this year's Man Booker Prize revelation.' The Times -------- ' - an unputdownable short novel about the price of emotional repression and the poisoned legacy of the second world war' Robert McCrum, The Guardian -------- 'Ms. Levy is a stealthy storyteller, lulling us while busy scattering clues.' The New York Times -------- 'Elegant - subtle - uncanny - The seductive pleasure of Levy's prose stems from its layered brilliance. These are deceptively simple scenes - but they all reward rereading. Levy moves her characters in and out of focus, always one step ahead of our sympathies, ready at any point to disrupt a conversation with some evocative revelation.' Ron Charles, The Washington Post -------- 'Exquisite - Levy's sense of dramatic form is unerring, and her precise, dispassionate prose effortlessly summons people and landscapes.' The New Yorker -------- 'The inclusion [on the Booker longlist] of Deborah Levy's Swimming Home, one of the finest new novels I have read (and already reread) in a long time, seems like a very good omen indeed. It radiates the sensual languor of sun-drenched afternoons in the south of France and the disquieting, uncanny beauty only perceived by a true daytime insomniac' Andrew Gallix, The Guardian -------- 'Her prose dazzles like sunlight on water.' Sarah Crown, The Guardian -------- 'Swimming Home is a statement on the power of the unsaid. Magisterial - Themes, phrases and images recur in rhythmic cycles through this fugal novel. Levy's cinematic clarity and momentum convey confusion with remarkable lucidity.' Abigail Deutsch, TLS -------- 'Deborah Levy has made something strange and new - spiky and unsettling. In Swimming Home, home is elusive, safety is unlikely, and the reader closes the book both satisfied and unnerved.' John Self, The Guardian -------- 'Swimming Home is as sharp as a wasp sting.' Christina Petrie, Sunday Times (6 Nov 2011) -------- 'A compact treasure.' Boyd Tonkin, in his round-up of the year's best fiction, The Independent -------- 'As the reader is drawn beneath the placid surface of her characters' experiences, Levy reveals a more urgent world humming with symbols.' Sammy Jay, The Literary Review -------- 'Levy winds her characters up and watches them go, and they do as most humans do, which is to mess up in the face of desire. Her novel is utterly beautiful and lyrical throughout, even at the most tragic turns.' Kirkus -------- 'Deborah Levy has a sophisticated Pinteresque touch; she is also anarchic and reinvents cliches with spectacularly clever results' Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times -------- ' - here is an excellent story, told with the subtlety and menacing tension of a veteran playwright' Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal -------- 'Levy's use of the third person is agile. Her movement between characters, shifting from one viewpoint to another, conjures the range of personalities with precision.' Emma Young, Sydney Morning Herald 'Levy sets up her Booker-shortlisted tale of family trauma and betrayal in the sun superbly, flitting between perspectives and not wasting a word.' Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald -------- 'Swimming Home is a beautiful, delicate book underpinned by a complexity that only reveals itself slowly to the reader.' Ben Eastham, FT -------- 'A lean, filmic novel humming with secrets. Its prose is luminous and, despite the darkness of themes that include depression and loss, there is immense tenderness.' Hephzibah Anderson, Daily Mail -------- 'There are moments, in Deborah Levy's short, stunning novel Swimming Home, when you think to yourself, haven't I trod this path before? But then you read the next sentence and you recognize: No. Never before. This is wholly new, fresh and, yes, profound - [Swimming Home] floats like a wasp, and stings like one too.' Tucker Shaw, The Denver Post -------- 'Levy's book begins with a cracking opening sentence and continues to be clever and unpredictable throughout - a book that, despite its brevity, pulses with powerful themes.' Sunday Business Post -------- 'This perfectly written, expertly crafted short book - [is] so well done and so clever.' Jenni Laidman, Chicago Tribune's Printers Row -------- 'Dark, sometimes humorous, intriguing and tragic, Levy's tale held me captive from its dramatic beginning' Lucy Popescu, The Tablet -------- 'Witty, modern and unpredictable.' BookOxygen -------- ' - the novel is as emotional affective and gripping as it is erudite' Sara D'Arcy, Review 31 -------- 'Rich text and emotional depth ensure this novel is one those literary gems that demands to be re-read in order to reward its reader with greater discoveries. Full of metaphor and symbolism, there is much to be unpacked in this slender volume.' Emma Perry, ArtsHub Australia -------- 'Shatteringly strange, Booker shortlisted meditation on depression, sex and childhood damage.' Metro -------- 'I absolutely loved Levy's writing style. A word is never wasted and she can concoct, like in the opening of the book, a whole set of images in a single sentence' Simon Savidge, Savidge Reads -------- 'Swimming Home is a subversively brilliant study of love, and, like Kitty Finch, merciless yet hauntingly sympathetic, dark and quietly humorous.' Avid Reader -------- 'Short yet dense, this delicate novel is a tense and edgy read whose poignant ending leaves its readers unnerved'. Lucy Pearson, The Unlikely Bookworm -------- 'The book is as clean and clear as the ringing of a bell, but quietly and meticulously poetic, full of beautiful language and deeply visual storytelling.' Assistant Blog -------- 'This is a short book which demands to be reread and very much a worthy inclusion on the Booker Prize list.' Messengers Booker -------- 'There is so much hidden under the surface of the writing - things are alluded to, imagery and symbols are potent and interesting and each of the characters is expertly suggested by pitch-perfect detail.' William Rycroft, Just William's Luck -------- 'And it is the quality and style of the writing that elevates Swimming Home, turning it into a work of dazzling beauty.' Living Between Pages -------- ' - it's a delight to encounter a novel that doesn't hesitate to challenge either its reader or the limits of what a novel can do.' Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This -------- 'The prose of the book is haunting and will keep you hooked. For a short book, it clearly speaks volumes of the human condition' Vivek Tejuja, IBNlive -------- 'Short, simple and haunting.' Editor's Picks: Best Books 2012, Huffington Post -------- 'Swimming Home is a remarkable novel - It clings to you, embeds itself into your thoughts - indeed it is a 'shining splinter', one which I've found very hard to dislodge from my mind.' Emily Rhodes, Emilybooks 'Levy's little book - is a potent thing, with a power to unsettle that's entirely disproportionate to its size.' Claire Strickett, For Book's Sake -------- 'Levy winds her characters up and watches them go, and they do as most humans do, which is to mess up in the face of desire. Her novel is utterly beautiful and lyrical throughout, even at the most tragic turns - A shortlisted nominee for the Man Booker Prize, deserving of the widest readership.' Booklist (starred review) -------- 'Swimming Home gains momentum as it progresses and offers a conclusion that is powerful and surprisingly unexpected. A different and unsettling look at the troubles of the mind.' Robyn Davies, Oh, You're a Writer? -------- 'It is a book - mystical and magical. It is intensely visual and visceral. It is eerie and strange, and affecting.' Nicole Lobry de Bruyn, The Chook House -------- 'Levy creates a fabulous sense of place' Booksaremyfavouriteandbest -------- 'The wit with which Deborah Levy executes her impish, surreal sketches and brief set pieces throughout is impressive' Paddy Kehoe, RTE -------- 'Levy's use of visual constructs and rich symbolism retains a powerful hold over the reader's experience.' F C Malby

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: And Other Stories; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908276029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908276025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,668,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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