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Swimming Home

3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  6,247 Ratings  ·  874 Reviews
Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams. Deborah Levy's writing combines linguisti ...more
Paperback, 165 pages
Published October 6th 2011 by And Other Stories
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Lynne King
Aug 20, 2016 Lynne King rated it it was amazing
I’m really at a loss to understand why this novella shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 did not win it. This is a perfect book. The prose is magnificent and a tour de force by an author with an exquisite handling particularly of the mental state in human beings.

The setting is July 1994, in a villa up in the hills from Nice in the Alpes-Maritime, one of my favourite places in southern France. A famous poet, Jozef Jacobs, known as Joe, and his wife Isabel, a former war correspondent, are on
Oct 07, 2012 Elaine rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I really wanted to love this book, and I did love Levy's writing, her prose is masterful, conveying character, setting, insight in small spare beautifully crafted paragraphs. The entire book is quite lean -- a week of time, briefly, surgically told -- and yet there are 9 distinct, well drawn characters, each with backstory, plot and motivation. Levy's craftsmanship is rich.

The problem is that the book is cold at the core. The oddly comforting epilogue rings false in a book that so limpidly depic
Reviewed in 2012

Deborah Levy is an interesting writer. There is a visual quality to her work that makes the reader blink. Is this a novel or a film, we ask ourselves? Are we reading or watching? We become immobile in front of the screen of her set pieces, watching passively as the events happen before our eyes, as if in a documentary or a piece of reality TV. But there is no voice over, little backstory, and no linking of scenes. What we see is all there is so we have to make of it what we can.

MJ Nicholls
This queer, disquieting novel blends a dark, surreal Topor-topos with a Hollywood noir of forties vintage. Taking place in 1994 over a week in a French holiday resort, the novel centres around stuttering botanist and exhibitionist depressive Kitty Finch and her interaction with a ragbag of unlikeable snobs, poets and snotty brats. Like her 1995 book The Unloved, Levy creates an unpleasant world with little empathy, where language is the only refuge, where the icy shimmer of the exacting prose ke ...more
B the BookAddict
Feb 02, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Michael

Swimming Home is a steal: with just 157 pages, this little book packs an incredible punch. The pervading scent of menace in this novel is overpowering and disquieting.

Precise, concise, decisive sentences trap the reader. Nice (France) is overhung with a grey cloud of emotive intrigue. Only the child seems to see the pervading danger imminent in the holiday. The disintegration of relationships is everywhere; marriages, friendships, businesses. Back-dropped by the scenic atmosphere of Nice, the f
Dec 26, 2013 Hilary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shortlisted
Over the past few years, I’ve found the Man Booker shortlist to be a pretty reliable source of new, interesting books I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, like 2011’s excellent Pigeon English and The Sisters Brothers, or, from 2010, Room, Andrea Levy’s amazing The Long Song, and Tom McCarthy’s weird-but-interesting C. This year, however, while Bring Up the Bodies was absolutely brills, the two shortlisted works I’ve read - this book and The Garden of Evening Mists - have been absolute Crap City ...more
A group of tourists holidaying in the French Riviera arrive at their summer villa only to find something floating in the swimming pool. One of them thinks it’s a bear, but it turns out to be a very naked stranger. The woman Kitty, having nowhere else to go, joins the group and ends up being a big disruption to the group in this deeply psychology dark novel.

Ok, I’ll admit that the main reason I decided to read this book was because it was short listed for the Man Booker award but let’s face it, a
Swimming Home was kindly provided to me by Netgalley for Bloomsbury USA.

"Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely."

After spotting this on Netgalley I found myself intrigued but ultimately willing to wait for it to be published. A few days later the Shortlist for the 2012 Man Book Prize was announced and Swimming Home was included, so I decided it was fate that I stumbled upon this book yet again so I went ahead and snagged it.

Kitty, botanist, po
Fatema Hassan , bahrain

كيف نتهم بالسطحية من كان الطفو هوايته، شخوص تطفو على الماء أمام عينك .. لهي أكثر الشخوص التي تلائمها -صفة- سطحية الهوية، نص الرواية تطابق مع خيالي ! فلطالما تخيلت الكتابة مهنة طافية في بركة الحياة وبقدر مهارة الكاتب في الغوص يُكافئ، فاستخراج شخصياته الحيّة أو انتشال جثثهم بذات القدر من الحيوية يحدد مستوى براعته، والكاتب الذي يحاصرك لمدة طويلة بشخوص بحالة الطفو المنتصفية - ماذا نسميه؟- .. هو بهذا يخنقك ليس إلا .. ( قد تنصحه.. بهذا>> أغرق شخوصك أو أنقذهم و لكن لا تتركهم في حالة الطفو اللعينة
Sep 10, 2012 Cheryl rated it did not like it
Recommended to Cheryl by: Booker prize longlist
The characters were flat, undifferentiated. They were faceless to me, doing nothing, being nothing, but somehow permeating the book with their unspoken whining. Intensely irritating. They all melted together as an amorphous mass of indecipherable...nothingness. I am so done with this book.
I've been putting off this review because Swimming Home has me a little stymied. Two families on holiday in a villa in Nice are surprised when a naked woman is found swimming in the pool one morning. Kitty Finch, the story's catalyst, has no where to stay and is invited to take a room with the in the villa. We soon learn that she is not there by accident but that she is there to meet Joe, a famous poet, to have him read one of her poems. The plot unfolds through the eyes of several different ...more
When Swimming Home was longlisted for the Booker Prize, I was elated. Not because I'd already read the book, but because, having read an early review that had piqued my interest, I had been trying to get hold of a copy of it for months and hadn't even managed to see one. Now it's actually been shortlisted, it has of course been re-published in paperback with a more WH Smith-friendly cover, and suddenly it's everywhere.

Like last year's winner, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, Swimming Hom
May 12, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The antiquarian bookstore I most often frequent has two sections: "Fiction and Literature," where you'd find Michael Ondaatje and Grace Paley and Lorrie Moore, and "General Fiction," where you'd find Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult and Candace Bushnell. I found Swimming Home in the latter section. Don't blame the staff. Blame the covers of the most recent editions, with their benevolent blues and suburban lawn greens. Blame the title (which serves in the novel as the title of a poem-cum-suicide ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Relationships between family, friends and a mysterious stranger are explored in uneasy detail in this compact and memorable read. Set in a holiday home in the hills above Nice in 1994, this enthralling story is a great example of well crafted language. Every sentence being concise and well crafted and creates a narrative that is devastating in its effects.

Poet Joe Jacobs is sharing a holiday home with his wife Isabel' teenage daughter Nina and friends Mitchell and Laura who own a business sellin
AJ Dehany
Oct 15, 2013 AJ Dehany rated it really liked it
Andrew Gallix refers to Deborah Levy as “a true daytime insomniac” (Guardian); whatever that means, it seems to colourfully capture Levy’s performance in this well-observed and protean novel. Its epigram is drawn from the Surrealist Manifesto and serves as an ironic commentary on the action, whereby “Each morning in every family, men, women and children [these familiar social categories are all represented discretely in this middle-class-family-novel-gone-thru-the-looking-glass], if they have ...more
Ruby Soames
"Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely." This is the basic tenet of the eerie, dark and expertly written story, 'Swimming Home'. And the book is only worth reading because we hope it will get better and we'll all get to the end quickly.

Two middle-class, middle-aged couples find a naked girl in their swimming pool (novel awash with water symbolism) while staying in a rental villa on holiday on the Riviera. One of the guests invites Kitty Finch
Dec 03, 2012 Mac rated it it was ok
"Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize" offers a sense of promise to any book, and Swimming Home initially delivers on that promise. The novel begins with a rich mix of character conflict, intrigue, and foreboding of troubles to come. The two central couples, plus a teenage daughter, on vacation near Nice, all quickly reveal numerous interpersonal problems, especially when confronted with a surprise visitor, Kitty, a fragile, supposed botanist/poet. So I found myself saying, "I'm glad I'm reading ...more
Debbie Robson
Sep 09, 2015 Debbie Robson rated it really liked it
The book’s description says: “Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting beneath the surface. With its deep psychology, biting humour and deceptively light surface, it wears its darkness lightly.”
I don’t agree with that description. The novel never had for me, a deceptively light surface. From the beginning I knew a lot was going on. The reader is very close to each character’s thoughts and feelings
Diane S ☔
Mar 08, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3.5 Not quite sure what to make of this little gem of a book. A holiday, characters that are on course for a terrific crash of some sort, the insidious nature of depression all meet in this tightly structured, brilliantly worded novel. Every word, every scene means something, nothing is wasted. Strange but rather brilliant at the same time. Didn't quite manage to like it, but did admire it and the ending was not at all was I thought it was going to be. The tension in the novel is palpable and at ...more
Shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize, this slim book reads like a play, the action centered on a small group of people gathered at a tourist villa in seaside France. Levy is a playwright and poet as well as a novelist, and this informs her fiction. Description is given like stage direction: ”His daughter, Nina Jacobs, fourteen years old, standing at the edge of the pool in her new cherry-print bikini, glanced anxiously at her mother.” The poetry comes through in the spare and precise ...more
Jan 13, 2013 christa rated it it was amazing
Vacation game-changer: Returning to the French villa to find a naked woman, briefly mistaken for a bear, floating in the pool. She’s Kitty Finch, thin and green nailed, a botanist slash poet who prefers nudity to its opposite. The vacation she’s ruining belongs to the famous poet Joe Jacobs, war correspondent Isabel Jacobs and their daughter Nina, who is about to pass a milestone as she closes in on womanhood -- and ruin the bed sheets in the process. Family friends Laura and Mitchell, who own a ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Levy's latest novel, 'Hot Milk', so that impelled me to start her backlist. The Booker shortlist nominated 'Swimming Home' did not disappoint, but it does seem a lesser effort - or maybe just more condensed in its subject and effect. Regardless, Kitty Finch is a truly original character, and it's a novel (or more reasonably, a novella) that makes one ponder and think, and it's one I will probably re-read somewhere down the line.
هذه الرواية لم يوضع فيها أي حرف من قبيل الصدفة أو الحشو. كل ما كتب هنا كتب لغاية تتكشّف في النهاية. إنها أخطر رواية قرأتها في حياتي. وأقصد بكلمة " أخطر" هنا أي أنها كانت ستجعلني أقدِم على الإنتحار! عندما انتهيت منها استلقيت على ظهري وحاولت أن أتجاوزها بكل ما أستطيع. عجيب ما قد تفعله رواية بقارئ ..
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
This is not a good book. It is a book in which the author is trying all too obviously and desperately to write a clever book. It screams "look at me being so clever" on every page. Instead, we get a nonsensical and thoroughly unsatisfying book. I finished it only because it is short.
Dec 10, 2013 Suzanne rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-penrith
Picked up at the library today on the new books shelf
Ron Charles
Nov 22, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Poor Sigmund Freud. The couch is looking awfully ratty. His clinical theories are repressed in the cabinet of historical curiosities somewhere between Gertrude Stein and Madame Blavatsky. Considering his famous map of psychosexual development, Brown University psychiatrist Peter Kramer has concluded that “every particular is wrong.” If the Viennese doctor pops up at all nowadays, it’s likely to be in some flaccid joke. Sometimes a hack is just a hack.

But what a pungent storyteller he was. As his
Nancy Oakes
Aug 24, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk-fiction
for the more fleshed-out version of what I thought of this book, feel free to click through to my online reading journal.

Super book, really, a rather dark and disturbing look at a group of British vacationers in a rented French villa after they discover a naked woman swimming in their pool.

The summer of 1994 and a rented villa in France provide the setting for this short but powerfully unnerving novel, which takes place in the span of only one week's time, with events related one day at a time
Ben Dutton
Jul 27, 2012 Ben Dutton rated it really liked it
Deborah Levy, whose appearance of the Man Booker Prize long-list, appears as something of a surprise. Her novel, Swimming Home, appears on the new label And Other Stories, and this is only their third novel. It is rare for such small presses to gain such national recognition. I said it appears as something of a surprise – but when you read Levy’s novel, the surprise dissipates. You realise how quickly how strong a novel this is. Also, it shouldn’t be a surprise, as Levy has previously published ...more
Mar 19, 2015 Ailsa rated it liked it
Deborah Levy's Swimming Home is a slim volume that has earned high praise (the foreword is written by a positively gushing Tom McCarthy) and, of course, a place on the Booker shortlist. However, whilst Levy's craftmanship is undeniable (the crisp lucidity of her prose is a pleasure to read) this book feels ultimately disappointing. The extent of Levy's ambitions is clear: this novel is self-consciously literary in its attempts to couple personal trauma and memory with the worst horrors of ...more
Agbonmire Ifeh
Sep 23, 2012 Agbonmire Ifeh rated it really liked it

I have read a couple of books on depression, they come out pretty heavy and I feel the bell jar come over my head literally and I quit reading. But, this book is remarkably different. Depression is tackled in a witty, funny tone and this makes the book incandescent. Years ago when I was an active chess player I once said to someone that people outside see better than the people who are playing. The dude was watching the game and yammering about missed chances, mistakes and all and got on my ner
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Larry's house Nov. 13, 2014 1 5 Nov 14, 2014 06:29AM  
What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Two American/English families Holidaying in France/Italy [s] 6 26 May 09, 2014 05:50PM  
Book Buzz: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy 1 5 Jul 03, 2013 06:14AM  
THE LISTS: Novel #1 12 28 Dec 16, 2012 08:13PM  
THE LISTS: Novel # 2 1 9 Sep 30, 2012 03:21PM  
BookerMarks: Discussion forum for Swimming Home 16 54 Sep 19, 2012 11:18AM  
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Deborah Levy trained at Dartington College of Arts leaving in 1981 to write a number of plays, highly acclaimed for their "intellectual rigour, poetic fantasy and visual imagination", including PAX, HERESIES for the Royal Shakespeare Company, CLAM, CALL BLUE JANE, SHINY NYLON, HONEY BABY MIDDLE ENGLAND, PUSHING THE PRINCE INTO DENMARK and MACBETH-FALSE MEMORIES, some of which are published in ...more
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“She was not a poet. She was a poem.” 26 likes
“Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely. But you tried and you did not get home safely. You did not get home at all.” 17 likes
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