Swimming Home – Deborah Levy


Poet Joe Jacobs’s family vacation is interrupted by a fanatical reader who wades, naked, out of their swimming pool

© Joe Jacobs is a Polish poet living in Britain, holidaying with his family and another couple in the South of France. One day a naked girl, called Kitty Finch, wades out of the swimming pool, naked and in search of the slightly well known Joe. She has written a poem called ‘Swimming Home’ which she hopes to impress Joe by.

Joe’s wife Isabel invites Kitty to stay and she does, comfortable in her habit of strolling about undressed. Her quiet, naked presence causes everyone to examine themselves, their relationships, and the way in which they view others, Joe especially who is the object of Kitty’s fascination and struggling with his own marriage.

Each of the characters tries to dominant or exert control over the others. Joe, a well known poet and Polish emigrant who had to change his name, his wife a former war correspondence with worldly experience, Kitty with her anonymity and allure. This gives the book but a universal but also intimate feel.

… to be forceful was not the same as being powerful and to be gentle was not the same as being fragile.

Rachel thought, in the end, the book was about the search for acceptance. She found it beautifully paced with fantastically mixed up characters who keep her guessing. “Unnerving but fulfilling.”  Suzy liked the mystique of the characters and the unusual relationships that formed, but found a sense of messiness about the presentation of the plot. All in all, something we would both recommend to readers who love making sense of the intrigue and mystery in their minds as they read.


Published 2011
Faber & Faber
176 pages

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