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Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
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Swimming Home (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Deborah Levy

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4453023,513 (3.4)2 / 97
Member:kiwidoc
Title:Swimming Home
Authors:Deborah Levy
Info:Faber and Faber (2012), Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Read and given away
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (2011)

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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 |
Beautifully written story about love, passion, poetry, and ways that the seemingly normal surface routines of life can conceal secrets. The story itself is a relatively standard one about a British family's French vacation--and the disruption caused by a beautiful, young, disturbed woman who they find swimming naked in their pool and they unaccountably invite to stay in a spare room in their villa. It is told over the course of a week, with a chapter for each day.

The story is presented through a kaleidoscopic perspective that shifts the point of vision from character to character, with almost nothing told in the pure omniscient authorial voice so that even the physical descriptions of characters change or become more or less vivid as the perspective shifts.

It is a very short novella and can easily be read in one or two sittings. It is also very intense, the emotional lives of the characters and the denouement of the story.

Ultimately, one perspective wins out: that of the daughter of the British couple and an epilogue told years later steps back and provides a perspective on the pivotal week that is the subject of the book itself. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Stunning language. Slightly disorienting plot. A tricky but worthy read. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | May 21, 2014 |
This novel was on the short list for the Man Booker Prize, so I felt obligated to read it twice to make sure I was not missing deep undertones that I assume are present in "serious" literature. The word "ennui" was invented for the people in this novel. The wealthy, world-renowned poet, Jozef, and his journalist wife, Isabel, are "on holiday" in France with their daughter, Nina, and friends (Linda and Mitchell) who can't afford the trip. They swim, they eat, one of them shoots rabbits and tries to catch mice in the act of defiling their food. The poet writes poetry. Into this world of leisure and disconnect stumbles Kitty Finch, an unbalanced botanist prone to wandering around nude and undernourished. She ends up staying with them and their world collapses as her mind fuses with and destroys various members of the group. Her presence forces them to stop hiding from themselves and confront the damage they are doing to their relationships with the people they love. The consequences are disastrous. I do find novels that I enjoy even when I don't like the circumstances portrayed. However this work was not in that category. Perhaps it was too somber and desperate. Although well-written, the connections between the dream states and the realities seemed somewhat obvious. I also didn't understand the presence of Linda and Mitchell. They didn't serve a purpose as far as I could tell other than to take your mind off the main characters and let you rest once in a while. Altogether not a great novel for me but not bad either. ( )
  krazy4katz | Dec 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (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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Epigraph
‘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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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.

(see all 2 descriptions)

'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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