2012 Man Booker Prize: Swimming Home

Swimming Home, by Deborah Levy

When couples offer shelter or a meal to strays and loners, they do not really take them in. They play with them. Perform for them. And when they are done they tell their stranded guest in all sorts of sly ways she is now required to leave. Couples were always keen to return to the task of trying to destroy their lifelong partners while pretending to have their best interests at heart.

Kitty Finch, a neurotic stammering botanist and nudist, sparks some very uneasy interactions with her quite embarrassing arrival at a holiday villa in Nice. Her intention is to meet Joe, a middle-aged accomplished Londoner poet, staying at the villa with his war journalist wife Isabel, his teen Nirvana-fan daughter Nina, and another British couple.
Swimming Home is a self-explanatory novel with good story structure about alienation and loneliness, and some swimming sessions. Sometimes Deborah Levy quite successfully translates that in Nina. But most of the times, they’re quite paper-thin and might even be too personal. We know these characters and the holes in their hearts, but we can never quite understand their choices of actions, and ultimately, the consequences they take. In Kitty Finch, we can blame it on mental problems. But what about Joe and Isabel? Are being a holocaust survivor and an absentee mother make a guaranteed recipe for empty, loveless, marriage?

Check out my other 2012 Man Booker Prize shortlist reviews:
Bring Up the Bodies

2012 Man Booker Prize longlist reviews:
Communion Town
The Teleportation Accident
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry


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