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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Swimming Home

I was intrigued by Deborah Levy's Black Vodka, a collection of very short stories, and wanted to read more. I got my hands on Swimming Home, a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. Poet and philanderer Joe Jacobs, his wife Isabel, a journalist who spends much time in far-flung corners of the world and their daughter Nina who is in her early teens have rented a villa outside of Nice. Isabel has invited Laura, a long time acquaintance, and her husband Mitchell, a gourmand and gun fancier to join them. Laura and Mitchell have fallen on hard financial times and have lost their business. The holiday is already headed in the wrong direction when a young woman appears, floating naked in the pool. Most people would have shown the girl to the door but Isabel invites her to stay with them.  Kitty Finch is an admirer of Joe's poetry and has brought a piece of her own work, titled Swimming Home, for him to read. She has trouble written all over her. What might have been a holiday abroad novel turns into a noirish psychological thriller.
The pace of the novel is mesmerizing; the mood is ominous. We discover that Kitty has been treated for severe depression and it appears that she wants to kill herself. Joe is drawn to her, as Isabel knew he would be. Perhaps Isabel has arranged an affair to use as an excuse to leave her unfaithful husband? We learn that the old woman who lives next door has had a previous negative run in with Kitty and is frightened to see that she has returned. She keeps a fearful eye on Kitty from her balcony perch. It's a short novel and Levy has made every word count as the story heads toward an unexpected conclusion. It's well worth reading.

Edit: I wrote the above last night. This morning I woke up to an article about Levy that might interest you if you are a fan: ‘What’s the point of a risk-free life?’ – Deborah Levy on starting again at 50

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