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Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through…

Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain (1999)

by Roger Deakin

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So, it's summer, and I've become interested in Wild Swimming (it's trendy at the moment. Easy, fun, and with that dash of 'look how countercultural I am, I am Wild and Take Risks' that is cool, without actually involving that many risks)

Waterlog is the most famous book about wild swimming in Britain, and so I read it.

Pros: There are lots of cool ideas for places to swim. And lots of entertaining and evocative history - I loved the bit about how Cambridge was when all was swimming in the river, and the lidos didn't exist. There is a wonderful flavour of England and trout fishing and prep schools and the wilds of Scotland.

Cons: It's a ramble that doesn't really go anywhere, and goes on just a bit too long. You spend half the book thinking that the plot is that he will swim the corryvrecken whirlpool, but what actually happens is he goes and looks at it, thinks 'not today, maybe I'll come back' and then never gets round to going back. And the prose walks that fine line between poetic and painfully purple.

It's like having a charming dinner guest who is obsessed with talking about wild swimming, and stays just a little bit longer than you would like, but is interesting and passionate and has done a lot of cool stuff. ( )
  atreic | Jul 8, 2015 |
Wonderfully written. ( )
  Rayaowen | Jun 1, 2013 |
If you love swimming (particularly in natural waters (the sea, ponds, rivers, lakes and so on), you'll be completely captivated by this book. I love to swim, and adore swimming in wild water, so every page made me long to be stroking through the rocks off the Isles of Scilly or gliding along through the 'gin clear' waters of the fenland streams, watching minnows streaking about. I read a bit every night in bed, and it was like waving a glass of whisky under the nose of an alcoholic. I dreamed of swimming.

It's a wonderful book, full of great evocations of the places he went, eccentric characters, great humour and the mild subversion of wanting to swim in natural places in a Health and Safety obsessed world. I don't usually go for non-fiction books when I am reading for pleasure, but I loved this book and might well buy myself a copy to read again. ( )
2 vote bsag | Nov 28, 2010 |
Roger Deakin was inspired by The Swimmer by John Cheever to explore the British isles by swimming in its lochs, lakes, rivers, streams, lidos and of course the sea. This is a sublime book. His joi de vivre leaps of the page and infuses you with absolute wonder. Add to this a growing desire to follow in his footsteps and nostalgia for lost youth this makes it a highly enjoyable reading experience. At first I wished for luscious pictures but soon I was glad to be wrapt solely in words. He can be witty, self depreciating and deeply eccentric but most of all his passion shines through, it is easy to see why this book gave birth to a renaissance in wild swimming. Held in check by a good editor, mixed with facts, thoughts and experiences this is a hell of a book.

I highly recommend it for anyone interested in swimming, travelogues and recapturing a world you thought no longer existed in the UK. ( )
5 vote clfisha | Jul 5, 2009 |
I love this book. I am fascinated to find a person who delighted in swimmng in nature's grand swimming holes, rivers and seas.
  yellowperch77 | Jan 5, 2008 |
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This Summer I went swimmingthis summer I might have drowned,but I held my breathand I kicked my feetand I moved my arms aroundmoved my arms around.- Loudon Wainwright III, 'Swimming Song'
Who would not be affected to see a cleere and sweet River in the morning, grow a kennell of muddy land water by noone, and condemned to the saltness of the sea by night?- John Donne, 'Devotions XVIII'
In memory of my mother and father and for my son Rufus
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The warm rain tumbled from the gutter in one of those midsummer downpours as I hastened across the lawn behind my house in Suffolk and took shelter in the moat.
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Inspired by John Cheever's classic short story, The Swimmer, Roger Deakin set out from his home in Suffolk to swim through the British Isles. The result of his journey is this personal view of an island race.

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