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The Swimmer

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  271 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
A gripping, captivating novel about love, loss and what home really means.

Forty-three year old Ria is used to being alone. As a child, her life changed forever with the death of her beloved father and since then, she has struggled to find love.That is, until she discovers the swimmer.Ben is a young illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka who has arrived in Norfolk via Moscow. Awa
Paperback, 272 pages
Published (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 561)
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Jul 07, 2011 Darryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ria is a poet who lives alone in the small East Anglian town of Ipswich, surrounded by small minded and nosy neighbors who are isolated from their fellow Britons, and fearful of the immigrants that are slowly infiltrating the country and their region. Her only close living relative is her brother Jack, a bully interested in right-wing politics who frequently harasses and troubles her, along with his less than lovable wife and children, and she is not particularly friendly with anyone in town, wh ...more
Amy Meadows
Jan 28, 2013 Amy Meadows rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roma Tearne explores a range of very personal subjects, along with major macro theme around being a woman, ageing and being 'English'. Along with an arresting consideration of immigration I found this refreshingly thought-provoking for what would ordinarily be termed an 'easy read' novel. I enjoyed the way the themes were woven together, and along with Roma Tearne's ability to provide poetry-like passages of writing, I would recommend this for people interested in diaspora tales.
Mar 23, 2011 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: romantics or anyone who loves the English coast
I read this book n a matter of days and felt as if i had been walking through the longs grasses of Suffolk, i could feel the breeze and smell the flowers.

I am from Norfolk myself and it was strangely pleasing and peculiar to know all of the areas they were mentioning.

I found the love story beautiful and unpredictable.

Also at the end of the book it had some old photos that the author had found which i found really interesting.
Jan 28, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is my favorite book ever. I read English at university, I was a voracious reader before and after Uni, so there have been a lot of books that have passed through my hands.
I read it over two nights. I probably would have read it faster if I hadnt been sobbing uncontrollably, looking for kleenex, wiping tears, sighing, thinking, remembering......... Roma has 2 skills, she tells wonderful stories, and she tells them beautifully. Each sentence is carefully chosen, I dont know where in her mind
Oct 05, 2012 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group-read

I loved this. I struggled at first, thought it was another soppy romance but by the end of the first part (out of 3) I was captivated. This book moved me and I felt quite sad at times! Fantastic read, strongly recommended. Thank god for book clubs.
Bev Taylor
May 19, 2015 Bev Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
love and loss are explored thru the voices of 3 very different women - a lover, a mother and a daughter

ria is in her 40's and on her own in a small suffolk village. then ben enters her life, a young sri lankan doctor who is waiting for his asylum application to be granted

they become lovers but he is then gunned down in a case of mistaken identity by the police

his mother flies over to identify the body and meets ria. her grief is nearly insurmountable but she is helped by eric

finally the daug
Jul 23, 2011 DubaiReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, 2011
Review for the Audible version.

I have read two of Roma Tearne's previous novels so I was not expecting this to be a particularly joyful read. Never-the-less, the tragedy referred to in the book's blurb occurs so early on in the narrative that it left me reeling, wondering how it could redeem itself. I did manage a few tears of joy at the end but the majority of the book is truly sad. Having said that, I enjoyed it, but then I am a bit of a morbid reader.

The main character is 43 year old Ria who
The Swimmer is a very gripping novel about loss, in the shape of a raging river of grief that overflows, and chokes all other emotions and rationality in its course. A less obvious theme is the problem of increasing xenophobia in the West, and in the United Kingdom in particular. Irrational fear of the unknown can lead to tragic outcomes, as is demonstrated in this novel.
The novel is divided in four parts. There is a prologue of sorts, introducing the reader to the town of Orford, to the farms
For 120 pages, I immersed myself in Ria's story - a lone woman who discovers a Sri Lankan illegal immigrant swimming at the bottom of her garden. Then bang, we suddenly get another narrator for the next hundred pages, then a third one after that. I struggled a bit with the change of voice but it is worth reading.
May 08, 2015 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owns
The story is written with beautiful description,and genuine heart. The characters personalities become very apparent quickly. The tale flows effortlessly and was a pleasure to read. Not my usual genre but enjoyable never the less. A recommended read.
Dec 26, 2013 Tami rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 4.5 for this one, really. I was absolutely wow'ed by Roma Tearne's Mosquito, and vowed to read another one of hers as soon as possible. Life intervened and I've only now finished another novel by her.. this one, The Swimmer. Another amaaaaaazing read!! I thought at the end of the 1st part that I'd just finished the best part of the best book I'd ever read (I wanted it to go on forever, or for the novel to end there..but, of course, I knew that neither could or should happen), and it would be a ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a little depressing and polemical, particularly half way through, but redeems itself through perceptive characterisation, beautiful writing and an upbeat ending.
Emma Johnston
Not the kind of read I was expecting after it was recommended to me by my mother in law as a 'riveting read' that wasn't my experience at all as I wasn't that bothered to keep picking it up; I didn't like the change in narrators through the 3 parts of the book and found it easy to get confused as it changed - I found I was still in the mindset of the previous narrator and would have to consciously remind myself who was telling the story - I found the writing descriptively beautiful and the chara ...more
Anne Tucker
Apr 07, 2013 Anne Tucker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have really enjoyed all of RomaTearne's books that I have read and this was no exception. I couldn't put it down though I was really busy preparing for the holiday festival in platt fields. Much of what I know about Sri Lanka and the truth of the terrible civil war there has come from artists - Roma T or Rani Moorthy the performer - I would recommend it for anyone keen to know more about the conflict here especially as it gives a real context for the call for a boycott of the world scheduled t ...more
Rachel Sumner
May 04, 2015 Rachel Sumner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another heart wrenching thought provoking book from Roma Tearne
Feb 17, 2014 Reesy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but nowhere near as good as Brixton Beach by same author
May 01, 2015 Adri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite intense, well written.
Jan North
I loved this book but my book club friends positively did not! The power of place to define identity is a recurring theme throughout Roma's work and one well explored here. I enjoyed the love stories and the depiction of the backwater of Suffolk
I felt different about the three parts of this novel. I felt the first was a bit strained, the final one a bit peculiar and only the middle one really felt genuine. I liked Tearne's prose - beautiful and emotive but her use of setting sometimes seemed to be a conveniently attractive backdrop but have little more purpose than that. I would perhaps have liked to see the story from the perspective of some of the periphery characters instead or at times, it might have created a tension that at times ...more
Feb 09, 2013 Alyson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is told by three different women, and each one moves the plot along in terms of the timescale. The third woman was a surprise to me. The novel deals with what happens if we repress or bury grief or childhood issues, as well as issue of loss, racism and immigration. Set partly in Suffolk and partly in Sri Lanka, both locations are evocatively and realistically portrayed. I had a little tear or two at the end.
Mary Lou
Aug 02, 2012 Mary Lou rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a book group read for me and I was sorry to say I did nt feel at all engaged by it. Part one consisted of an fairly improbable relationship between two fairly unlikeable people, Part 2 an extremely improbable liasion between two others- although more readable, and Part 3 - well I could nt really say

Left me with no budding interest either in Sri Lanka or the plight of refugees
Suzanne Mountain
Apr 03, 2013 Suzanne Mountain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book quickly and was gripped by the unlikely love story. Liked the way the book is in three parts and enjoyed the different perspectives of the three women. The author writes beautifully about loss and also describes Suffolk skies and hot summers well. Also liked the descriptions of Sri Lanka. First book of Roma Tearnes I've read but will read the others now.
Kim Trusty
Jan 25, 2013 Kim Trusty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, lyrical study of heartbreak, grief, loneliness and xenophobia. I felt like I was an intruder in a very personal tragedy and have been left as bereft as the characters. Tearne's artist's eye serves her well and her ability to translate this into words in phenomenal. Possibly the best of her work (all of which I've thoroughly enjoyed) to date.
Oct 21, 2013 Zoe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the issues that were explored in the book in that it made me think about what it might be like to live in a war-torn country.

I did have a problem with the voice of Anula though; she sounded far too 'English' considering she was born and brought up in Sri Lanka - I just felt that there was very little difference between her voice and that of Ria.
Lara May
May 26, 2012 Lara May rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written, heart wrenching story that pulls the reader in, only to leave them gasping for the next step as each womans story comes to an abrupt end - dont worry though it all comes together and is a real winner. A novel to make you think about war, crimes, war crimes and what and where is home - read it!
Jan 15, 2011 Teryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fraser Bridgeford
Feb 02, 2012 Fraser Bridgeford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was about to put the book down and give up on it when pow! Give it time. Not a book to read if you are on an emotional roller-coaster as it will certainly accelerate your feelings. The format of three separate women's viewpoint is well done and is quite unpredictable in story if not final outcome.
Jun 12, 2011 Tracy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a sad love story that you knew was never going to end well, however, eventually things sorted themselves out as usual. Read my full review at
Apr 18, 2011 Florence rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really didn't enjoy thia book as much as I thought I would.I found the characters to be quite unlikeable and scenario far fetched .I dont think it helps that this is a location that I know very well and it just didn't ring true for me .
Sandi Mann
Aug 25, 2013 Sandi Mann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandi by: Anne McMahon
an interesting read, sweetly written. 3 sections give 3 first person perspectives of a sad story. I enjoyed the way the author added descriptions of birds & flowers & weather to build ambience.
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Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born artist living and working in Britain. She arrived, with her parents in this country at the age of ten. She trained as a painter, completing her MA at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford. For nearly twenty years her work as a painter, installation artist, and filmmaker has dealt with the traces of history and memory within public and private spaces.

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