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Swimming Home (2011)

by Deborah Levy

Other authors: Kerstin Paradis Gustafsson (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7964723,400 (3.33)2 / 135
Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious 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 single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams. Deborah Levy's writing combines linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting just beneath the surface. With its deep psychology, biting humour and deceptively light surface, it wears its darkness lightly.… (more)
  1. 10
    The Accidental by Ali Smith (kitzyl)
    kitzyl: A family on holiday whose lives are disrupted and changed forever by a mysterious interloper.
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» See also 135 mentions

English (45)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Deborah Levy was (already) a published author, with no less than five novels, two collections of short stories, 18 plays and a volume of poetry to her name. However, in an interview with Bookslut she complained that most of her books were out of print and that she was working on getting them in print again.Did she experience difficulty getting Swimming home published with her publisher or any other main publishing house? The novel surprisingly came out with And Other Stories an then new publisher that finances book publications by subscription. Was the jury of the Man Booker Prize perhaps positively biased to niche publishers, or did her work stand out in that area of publishing? Would her novel be noticed and equally well received had it been published by her regural publisher Jonathan Cape? If it had been a strategic move by Deborah Levy to publish the novel in this way, she was rewarded beyond measure: the novel was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and thus the author was catapulted into the limelight. Soon after, her early novels were reissued by Penguin Books.

But is Swimming home really such a good book? Far from it! A muddled story, vague characters and no action. Of course, these are characteristics of many postmodern novels. It is obvious that the author is no newby. She knows something about writing, but she knows very little about telling a story, let alone an interesting story. The jury of the Man Booker Prize should be ashamed to have long listed, and then even short listed the book. ( )
  edwinbcn | Dec 4, 2021 |
I didn't really like this book. Found it rather depressing and a bit pretentious. Although I agree with most reviewer's content (printed on the cover pages) I don't agree with their kudos. Studies of dark, troubled individuals are not my thing, nor is a cast of thoroughly unlikable characters. By the way hasn't anyone noticed that in the contemporary world Poets are neither rich nor famous -- at least the living ones. ( )
  amaraki | Aug 8, 2018 |
This book is rather wonderful - cryptic, elusive, allusive and dreamlike, and very difficult to encapsulate or describe in a meaningful review.

My only previous exposure to Levy was reading her most recent book Hot Milk, and this book occupies similar territory, at least superficially. Both are full of symbolism and striking imagery, and share similar southern European settings, but ultimately depend more on what is not said than what is.

Levy toys with her characters and appears to understand them better than they do themselves. I won't even attempt to describe the plot, which seems almost irrelevant. ( )
1 vote bodachliath | Feb 23, 2018 |
https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/159260018863/swimming-home-by-deborah-levy

…She was not ready to go home and start imitating someone she used to be…

All these suspects on holiday together sharing a villa, a pool, and the rambling grounds of the estate surrounding them are not who they appear to be. The posing of every faker on the premises is not so much remarkable as it is expected. It is the way life goes. Rarely is there authentic intimacy in this type of gathering, but rather infidelities of the most obscene kind. Levy is adept at making it all seem and feel normal. And the threat and portent of doom hovers around the intimates similar to a dark and pregnant cloud.

The story progresses and this doom feels imminent. Trouble is coming for somebody and the victims perhaps will number more than a few. The cast of characters involve two vacationing couples, a daughter, caretaker, restauranteur, neighbor, and an adrift and traveling young girl who generally prefers her public nudity to convention. This somewhat likable woman named Kitty Finch is obviously unstable and provides the impetus for the impending disaster. The focus centers on the accomplished poet Joe, his historical infidelities, and the starving and disturbed young nudist invited to share a room in their villa. Nobody, including the reader, knows why Joe’s partner Isabel invited her to stay except for her facilitating another adultery she has become accustomed to enduring. Manipulation seems to be at the heart of every action. By book’e end I am no nearer a resolution to this seeming madness than when I was at the opening scene as passenger in a car bent on crashing. But end it does.

Secrets, yes. And teeming with them. For me, a rather hollow work devoid of feeling. And though my first foray into her writing, I expected more from Deborah Levy. Especially with all the hype announcing it. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 7, 2018 |
This audio was presented in 5, 15-minute segments. I don't know whether there were only 5 segments instead of 10 because the book is short, or because there wasn't enough substance. I suppose it could be an interesting study in mental illness, but I was put off from the start by the unlikely scenario. Apparently Kitty's nudity was an issue; since the dwelling by rights was in the possession of the family, why didn't they tell her to cover up? And being unnerved by this odd woman, why did they invite her to stay? No hotel? Then leave town. Go somewhere where there was a hotel room. Letting her stay with them was so unbelievable that the whole story immediately went into the fantasy realm, which made me unable to appreciate any serious statement about mental health or personal relationships. ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (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. [...] the result is something spiky and unsettling.
added by Nevov | editThe Guardian, John Self (Oct 7, 2011)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Levyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gustafsson, Kerstin ParadisTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barth, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Higuera Glynne-Jones, Susana de laTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jongeling, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kunová, JanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCarthy, TomIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCarthy, TomAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vesanto, LauraTranslatorsecondary 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.
The days were hard and smelt of money.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious 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 single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams. Deborah Levy's writing combines linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting just beneath the surface. With its deep psychology, biting humour and deceptively light surface, it wears its darkness lightly.

No library descriptions found.

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)

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