Summary and book reviews of Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Swimming Home

A Novel

By Deborah Levy

Swimming Home
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    Readers' Opinion:

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  • Paperback: Oct 2012,
    176 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron

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Book Summary

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 enigmatic wife allow her to remain?

A subversively brilliant study of love, Swimming Home reveals how the most devastating secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.

SATURDAY
Wild Life

The swimming pool in the grounds of the tourist villa was more like a pond than the languid blue pools in holiday brochures. A pond in the shape of a rectangle, carved from stone by a family of Italian stonecutters living in Antibes. The body was floating near the deep end, where a line of pine trees kept the water cool in their shade.

'Is it a bear?' Joe Jacobs waved his hand vaguely in the direction of the water. He could feel the sun burning into the shirt his Hindu tailor had made for him from a roll of raw silk. His back was on fire. Even the roads were melting in the July heatwave.

His daughter, Nina Jacobs, fourteen years old, standing at the edge of the pool in her new cherry-print bikini, glanced anxiously at her mother. Isabel Jacobs was unzipping her jeans as if she was about to dive in. At the same time she could see Mitchell and Laura, the two family friends sharing the villa with them for the summer, put down their mugs of tea and walk ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Reading Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home is as unsettling as skating across a thinly frozen pond. You know you will fall through, tumbling into the deep, murky waters below the story’s surface, but you are never sure exactly when or how. Levy sets her novel, which spans merely eight days - Saturday to Saturday - in a tourist villa shared by two couples in the Alpes-Maritimes. Against the backdrop of this clichéd and innocuous setting, she spins a richly plotted, darkly humorous, and disturbing tale of psychological unraveling. Levy’s characters swim rather than skate, but the water into which they dive is no less turbulent.   (Reviewed by Naomi Benaron).

Full Review Members Only (1270 words).

Media Reviews
The Washington Post

Levy’s elegant language and subtle, uncanny plot are strictly adult fare...The seductive pleasure of Levy’s prose stems from its layered brilliance...witty right up until it’s unbearably sad.

New Yorker

Exquisite….Levy’s sense of dramatic form, as she hastens us toward the grim finale, is unerring, and her precise, dispassionate prose effortlessly summons people and landscapes.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Her novel is utterly beautiful and lyrical throughout, even at the most tragic turns...A shortlisted nominee for the Man Booker Prize, deserving of the widest readership.

Booklist

Levy winds her characters up and watches them go, and they do as most humans do, which is to mess up in the face of desire. Her novel is utterly beautiful and lyrical throughout, even at the most tragic turns….A shortlisted nominee for the Man Booker Prize, deserving of the widest readership.

The Independent (UK)

Swimming Home reminded me of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Although a short work, it has an epic quality. This is a prizewinner.

The Guardian (UK)

One of the finest new novels I have read (and already reread) in a long time...it radiates the sensual languor of sun-drenched afternoons in the south of France and the disquieting, uncanny beauty only perceived by a true daytime insomniac.

The Sunday Times (UK)

As sharp as a wasp sting and as deep as the 'cloudy' pool by the French holiday villa where the story unfolds.

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

A statement on the power of the unsaid….Levy's cinematic clarity and momentum… convey confusion with remarkable lucidity.

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Naomi Benaron Talks With Deborah Levy

Naomi Benaron, whose Bellwether Prize winning first novel, Running the Rift, is set during the Rwandan genocide, chats with Deborah Levy about her latest novel, Swimming Home.

Naomi: First, I would like to congratulate you on all your honors for Swimming Home: shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize and shortlisted for National Book Awards Author of the Year.

There is a quote from your interview with Gareth Evans that I love: "If I let 'the market' write my books for me and tell me what I think and how you think and what we are like, what kind of conversation would I be having with my readers? What kind of conversation would they be having with me?" In light of this, how do you see ...

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