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Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Swimming Home (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Deborah Levy

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4813321,406 (3.39)2 / 106
Title:Swimming Home
Authors:Deborah Levy
Info:Faber and Faber (2012), Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Read and given away

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Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (2011)



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English (32)  German (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
(28) This short novel is seriously overrated. At least according to my taste. A famous English poet takes a holiday with his family and friends in the South of France. A mysteriously young woman, Kitty Finch, shows up and is given shelter with the group despite her oddness. It turns out she is the poet's fan and has written a poem herself that she wants him to read. She is young and beautiful and the poet is known to be unfaithful to his wife, so it is unclear why his wife, Isabel, who appears to be some sort of successful war corespondent mostly absentee mother and wife, actually invites Kitty to stay with them in the first place. Who knows, and frankly who cares?

I found this novel fairly pretentious. You read the reviews and you see it shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2012 and it is quite short and you think - Wow, this has gotta be good. But its almost a bit of the 'Emperor's New Clothes' phenomenon. This writer appears to have the credentials that suit the highbrow reviewers and so the book must be good. And perhaps it is, but its not that great.

There is one passage in the book that talks about how the depressed are always obsessed with their own depression, their every feeling, their every symptom is of utmost importance. They can't see beyond themselves. I felt like this with this book. I guess Kitty Finch and company were so enigmatic, so 'depressed,' so flawed that the author couldn't see beyond them to actually entertain her readers. It was just one queer and fairly pointless scene after another. Not exactly post-modernist, but a little of that 'screw you, reader' feel. I mean fercrissakes let us read Kitty Finch's poem, at least.

Anyway, this novel grated on me if you can't tell. Three stars because the ending was creepy and I liked the immediate, chaotic first person reactions of Nina - that was pretty well-done. And I agree the author creates an excellent lazy, kind of drunk, vacationy, vibe with only a few words. But the rest - Bah! forgettable. ( )
  jhowell | Aug 30, 2015 |
I can't finish this.

at first I was intrigued, but quickly became irritated and bored. either give me a foothold in the plot, or give me a character to care about. give me something! i'm not going to force myself to finish this just because it was short-listed for the booker prize. i'm too annoyed.
  annadanz | Jul 5, 2015 |
Swimming Home was an odd reading experience for me. It takes place over one week in France as Jozef and Isabel take their 14 year old daughter, Nina, and their friends Laura and Mitchell to a vacation home. Their marriage is already rocky and when they arrive at the vacation home to find the beautiful, naked, and crazy Kitty swimming in the pool you know things are not going to turn out well.

The writing in this book is good - kind of dreamy but still powerful descriptions - but I felt that there were so many loose ends still when the book ended that I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Some of the characters (especially Laura and Mitchell) seemed superfluous, as if Levy started the book thinking they'd be important and then just changed directions. But she did succeed in entangling the lives and thoughts of Jozef, Kitty, and Nina with a lot of artistry. I wonder if the book would have been better either as a short story or as a longer novel. ( )
  japaul22 | Sep 7, 2014 |
The story revolves around a man in a trouble marriage who's offered a huge paycheck if he'll write a biography of his bigger than life father-in-law. That would mean looking into the life of Big Bill Mulholland, who is presently a powerful magnate in international communications, oh, and was a legend in the world of espionage. John Glass is regularly a journalist, but when a million dollars is offered up for this book, he accepts the deal. Then he finds the project nearly impossible to begin. He asks around about someone to do research—and then things begin to happen and threats come his way.

This is more mystery than I normally go for, but the writing won me over and I much enjoyed the ride the novel gave me. ( )
  jphamilton | Jul 27, 2014 |
Depression and rejection drive this great novel. Levy has packed a lot of emotion into her characters, and the tensions between spouses, friends, families and a disturbed stalker who both depend on and despise each other brilliantly bubble over a peaceful but hostile Mediterranean background.

The story depicts a tumultuous week in the south of France revolving around the dysfunctional relationships between Joe, a famous English poet on holiday with his not-quite-but-practically estranged war correspondent wife, his 14 year old daughter who both loves and despises him, and a beautiful young visitor/stalker, Kitty. Kitty bursts onto the scene skinny dipping in the pool of their holiday villa, and becomes the fulcrum of the story - both as a very disturbed and depressed person, and in turn disturbing the already fractured relationships between each family member with her desperate need to be in contact with Joe. Kitty is both vulnerable and domineering, alluring and terrifying. She is an absolutely unpredictable character, and as a result the story takes several turns before a final, totally unexpected climax.

I really enjoyed this book. It will stay with me for some time, particularly the disturbing Kitty Ket and her favorite poem... it's raining. Highly recommended read, but probably not one to attempt if you are feeling a bit down. ( )
  mattclark | Jul 24, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader: we recognise the centipede as the thing of darkness in us all. This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.
added by geocroc | editThe Telegraph, Philip Womack (Aug 7, 2012)
Swimming Home reminded me of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Although a short work, it has an epic quality. This is a prizewinner.
added by geocroc | editThe Independent, Julia Pascal (Oct 21, 2011)
With her first novel in 15 years, Deborah Levy has taken worn structures and made something strange and new...

...and the reader closes the book both satisfied and unnerved
added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, John Self (Oct 7, 2011)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Levyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCarthy, TomIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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‘Each morning in every family, men, women and children, if they have nothing better to do, tell each other their dreams. We are all at the mercy of the dream and we owe it to ourselves to submit its power to the waking state.’
– La Révolution surréaliste, No. 1, December 1924
To Sadie and Leila, so dear, always
First words
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.
Her gaze, the adrenalin of it, was a stain, the etcs in her poem a bright light, a high noise. And if all this wasn't terrifying enough, her attention to the detail of every day was even more so, to pollen and struggling trees and the instincts of animals, to the difficulties of pretending to be relentlessly sane, to the way he walked (he had kept the rheumatism that aged him a secret from his family), to the nuance of mood and feeling in them all. Yesterday he had watched her free some bees trapped in the glass of a lantern as if it were she who was held captive. She was as receptive as it was possible to be, an explorer, an adventurer, a nightmare. Every moment with her was a kind of emergency, her words always too direct, too raw, too truthful.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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 wife allow her to remain?
Haiku summary
Obsessed Kitt swims nude ~ Isable invites her in ~ Villa is altered. (catted)

No descriptions found.

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'Swimming Home' is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidiuos harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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