BookBrowse Reviews Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio


A Novel

by Karen Russell

  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2011, 336 pages
    Jul 2011, 416 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book



A vibrant and delightfully different novel about a family's struggle to keep their alligator-wrestling theme park afloat

In the virtuoso opening pages of Swamplandia!, in which Ava remembers her mother's famous alligator-wrestling act, Karen Russell finds five different ways to describe the spotlight that Ava's father trains on his wife as she swims across the alligator pit. First, it is the "huge unseeing eye of the follow spot" that "twisted through the palm fronds until it found Hilola." Then, it casts "a light like a rime of ice onto the murk, and Mom swam inside this circle across the entire length of the lake." The audience would scream when an alligator swam into the spotlight alongside her, "a plump and switching tail cutting suddenly into its margarine wavelengths," and "now and then a pair of coal-red eyes snagged at the white net of the spotlight as the Chief rolled it over the Pit," but Hilola would keep swimming, "brushing at the spotlight's perimeter as if she were testing the gate of a ...

About the Author
Karen Russell's first book, a collection of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, was published in September 2006, for which she was named a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" young writer honoree. Swamplandia expands on one of the short stories from this collection: "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" which is available in full at Scribd.

Members Only

BookBrowse's reviews and "beyond the book" articles are part of the many benefits of membership and, thus, are generally only available to subscribers, including individual members and patrons of libraries that subscribe.

Join Today

Member Login

Library Patrons

Beyond the Book:
  The Ten Thousand Islands

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.