Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Review: Swimming Home

Excess baggage that spoils a holiday

    By Deborah Levy
    And Other Stories £10

    A family holiday is the setting for Swimming Home, Deborah Levy's musing on depression, loyalty and the impact a stranger can have.

    Two couples, one with a daughter on the verge of adulthood, gather in a villa in rural France for a summer of secrets, hostility and delicate pastries. From the outset, it is clear that this is not going to be a dream holiday - at least, not in the conventional meaning of the phrase.

    The couples are not ideally matched, their friendship too tenuous. And, with the arrival of a mysterious temptress called Kitty Finch, everything is thrown into upheaval. Poet Joe Jacobs - himself with a past he has not yet come to terms with - is drawn to the newcomer and yet also repulsed. His daughter Nina is enthralled, while his wife Isobel becomes ever more withdrawn as more light is shed on Kitty's personal life.

    Meanwhile, the consciously worldly Mitchell and Laura - owners of an exotic goods "emporium" -- contemplate their not all together perfect relationship.

    Swimming Home is not for the casual reader of fiction. The writing is challenging, the characters far from likeable, and the title in no way indicates a series of strokes towards some comfortable conclusion.

    But, as a study of how just one minor change can alter an entire situation, or of whether personal melancholy is ever capable of being contained, Levy's book -not much longer than a novella - is stimulating.

    She has a poetic and melodious style that perfectly captures the oppressive heat of a foreign stay and the tension that can flow from an unfamiliar place and the anxiety created by an unexpected situation.

    Her characters, too, are well-drawn and highly individual. Laura, for all her pretensions, cooks Delia Smith recipes; Joe speaks in angry and childish capital letters despite his status as a respected poet.

    And the minor players are a delight, from the lazy caretaker to the self-infatuated café-owner Claude, who was 23 and "knew he looked like Mick Jagger".

The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Reunion

Amanda Hopkinson

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Reunion
Books

A taste for forbidden flavours

Michael Kaminer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A taste for forbidden flavours
The Jewish Chronicle

Jodi Picoult competition entry form

Keren David

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jodi Picoult competition entry form
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours

Stephen Frosh

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours
Books

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me

Keren David

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me
Books

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...

Robert Philpot

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...
Books

Can you solve these knotty problems?

Daniel Sugarman

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Can you solve these knotty problems?
Books

Getting ahead is a slice of pie

Suzanne Levy

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting ahead is a slice of pie
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar

Stoddard Martin

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar