Sunday, 19 August 2012

Book #73 Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Swimming Home

In Swimming Home by Deborah Levy, another contender for this years Booker, popular poet Joe Jacobs is on holiday with his wife, daughter and a couple they are friends with in Nice, when their privacy is intruded upon by one Kitty Finch who they find floating naked in their pool.

At first it all seems like an honest mistake, Kitty regularly holidays here too and has just got her dates confused, that's all, she's happy to go to a hotel, Isabel Jacobs, Joe's wife offers to put her up when no hotel can be found. But it doesn't take long for either Joe or Isabel to discover she is just another fan looking for the poet's attention.

What would make the book lose its general credibility is the group tolerance of Kitty, a clearly unbalanced individual, but Levy sidesteps the issue of Kitty's continued presence by giving the lead characters of Isabel, Joe, and Nina reasons to want her to remain.

If mentally unbalanced Kitty has intruded upon their lives and is manipulating them as their neighbour, who has dealt with Kitty's psychological problems before suggests, so too are they using Kitty, manipulating her; Nina idolising her, hurting her mother by choosing this stranger over her at a pivotal moment in her life, Joe has no interest in helping her develop as a poet, he wants what he gets from all his groupies & rather than Isabel being Kitty's victim, Kitty is Isabel's, invited in and thereby exploited to do exactly what Isabel needs her to do.  

Swimming Home is really compulsive to read, an active page turner and its really accessible as a novel, there are great moments in the prose which I really, really liked such as this description of psychiatrists  :
A bad fairy made a deal with me, give me your history and I will give you something to take it away
Or this quote about knowledge :
knowledge would not necessarily serve them, nor would it make them happy. There was a chance it would instead throw light on visions they did not want to see

Swimming Home comes from a very, very small publishing house called And Other Stories, which relies on subscribers to exist, so it's a triumph, a really great thing to see one of its books up for the Booker. Like many however I could have done without the fawning Tom McCarthy introduction, I skipped it because it was fawning but I am told it gives away aspects of plot which is an unforgivable thing to do to a reader 8/10 


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