That evasive thing in writing – “Swimming Home” by Deborah Levy

October 9, 2014 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment

imageThere is something about this book that I can’t put my finger on.  It is really well written and, while the story seems familiar,  it is just so engaging.  And sometimes a book is just the right blend of story and meaning and writing. This is definitely that book (it was a finalist for the Man Booker Award for a reason).

Poet Joe Jacobs, his wife and his 12-year-old daughter, Nina, have rented a villa on the French Rivera.  The family and the couple vacationing with them come home to the villa one day to find a naked woman swimming in their pool.  And just that simply their lives change or they swiftly head down the course they were destined to meet anyway. It is hard to know.

The naked woman, Kitty, with her green painted nails and apparent hatred for clothes, has just been released from a stint in a mental institution and has been obsessed with Joe’s poetry. Joe’s wife invites her to stay at the villa in the spare bedroom evidently hoping she will be a great distraction for her already unfaithful husband.  Kitty is a botanist and a poet and crazy but in that way that makes her interesting.  She is cathartic. She sees emptiness where it is hidden beneath sarcasm and success.  She recognizes pieces of herself in the others and latches onto them.  Her nakedness is not necessarily vulnerability but seems more about her ability to grasp that things will just not go according to order or plan.  She is not wise or always truthful, she is just raw.

And the pool is the center of the book. It is grimy and green in parts but everyone keeps swimming in it.  The characters meet around it, head to it when life is changing. How the chairs and tables are set by the pool reminds the characters of earlier conversations, of earlier decisions.  And as Levy cleverly points out a pool is shaped like a big watery grave sitting there in the middle of everything.

Levy’s story is a stunning look at depression that I don’t think I have completely grasped.  It is a reminder that any one of us could be on the precipice of life beating us. That any one of us could be drowning and those around us may not notice.  Where we end up is merely a question of how much we have left in us, of how much swimming we can do.

“Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we will get home safety. But you tried and you did not get home safely. You did not get home at all.’


Other reviews to check out: 

Entry filed under: October 2014 reads. Tags: , , , , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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