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The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Nearly everything important in twelve-year-old Gabriella's life that summer of 1957 can be traced to the river. On the North Carolina military base where she lives, she meets the African-American Marine Hawkins by the river's brown-green water. Hawkins, a servant in the kitchen of her father's quarters, becomes her swim coach and a person she can talk with--even about the ...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published October 3rd 2012 by CreateSpace (first published March 14th 2012)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  259 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Author Elle Thornton
The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis: Elle Thornton's Novel Keeping the Spirit of Emmett Till Alive


 photo Emmett-Till-507515-1-402.jpg

I did not. Not until college. I grew up in a segregated South. The only blacks I knew were the housekeepers who helped raise me. They were the most important women in my life aside from my Mother and Grandmother. I was taught to call them "Ma'am."

This young man is Emmett Till. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, July 21, 1941, the son of Mamie and Louis Till. In the summer of 195
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"I'm too old to be as ignorant as I am."

This one line perfectly describes the book.

I generally dislike YA, but this book is quite different from others I have read in the genre because it does not seek to make light of difficult topics and it does not pretend to have answers. In fact, it is very unpretentious in many ways. It's almost like the book was actually written with the purpose of telling a story to its readers, with the focus on imparting knowledge rather than on manipulating young read
Autographed copy received from GR friend and moderator of the On the Southern Literary Trail discussion group, Mike "Lawyer Stevens" Sullivan. Thanks also to author Elle Thornton for graciously offering this copy of her novel.

This story is told from the point of view of Gabriella Winter, who lives on a military base with her father, whom she calls "the general." She wants to prove her worth to the general so that he will not send her back to boarding school, which she hates. One day she meets t
...I ask him if he knows the name Emmett Till.

The general's eagle eyes latch onto mine. His beaky nose suddenly looks more sharp than usual. "How do you know that name?"

"Well, sir, our teacher told the class about Emmett. Many others know about him, too."

The general sets his knife and fork aside. "You are too young to learn about the brutality of the world. You are too young to even try to understand."

Every summer seems magical when you are a kid, and for 12-year-old Gabriella, the summer of 195
Tom Lowe
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a well written, powerful debut novel that echos the theme and texture of To Kill A Mockingbird. In Harper Lee's classic, we see and hear the story from Scout's point-of-view. In Elle Thornton's novel, the storyteller is Gabriella, a twelve-year-old girl growing up in the late fifties on a North Carolina military base. The coming of age story weaves Gabriella's efforts to earn her father's pride, a man she refers to as the General. If she can win a swimming competition just maybe the Gene ...more
This coming of age novel set on a southern Marine base in 1957, uses the recent murder of Emmett Till and its effect on the developing mind and emotions of a 12 year old white girl to build a picture of a family and a society coming to grips with race. When Gabriella returns to her new home, on a new base, with this new knowledge, it affects how she interacts with all she meets that summer, especially Hawkins, her father's black steward, a highly decorated Marine from the Korean War.

Gabriella is
Haven Gordon
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastically powerful and emotional read. It goes to the heart and
deals with difficult topics like racism, prosecution, and freedom. It's
about a young very pretty White girl named Gabriella who becomes friends with an
older Black Marine she calls Hawkins.

Despite the differences between their cultures and their families, they become friends. As they spend time together it becomes clear that even the river they both love and share is a symbol of the distance between them that socie
Faye Heath
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely, gentle story about a young girl coming of age on a Marine base in North Carolina in the late 50s. The author uses beautiful word pictures to punctuate her story. "...the sun drops behind the horizon like an orange slipping from a child's hand." How's that for painting a scene?

This is a Y-A novel that can be read and discussed by the entire family. There are lessons to learn here and historical incidents that need to be remembered. I see hours of discussions with your young ones
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All readers YA to adult
Recommended to Tom by: Elle Thornton
Fear can be the current that threatens to pull you under or simply a challenge to test us and be overcome…

Elle Thornton’s debut novel reintroduces us to an important time in America where the seeds of social transition were beginning to sprout. It happens that our 12 year-old main character, Gabriella is also in the early stages of her own important transition. Gabriella begins the story a child but with the help of caring mentors and her own inquisitive nature, she may learn to see beyond herse
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: middle school students, teachers, and the parents of middle schoolers.
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book
With all of the "boy meets girl" and fantasy YA books out there, it is always refreshing to find a book that deals with a more serious issue. The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis by Elle Thorntonis just such a book. Gabrielle Winter is 13, and like many 13-year-olds, she is not sure of her place in the world. Complicating matters is the fact that Gabrielle is spending the summer at an Army base in North Caroline where her father, a general, is stationed. It is the summer of 1957 and racial tensions in ...more
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very thoughtful coming of age book written for that audience (preteen to young teens). The writing is superb and I really felt I was in Gabriella's head with some of the "magical" thinking of the littlest things will solve life's biggest problems. This book was not over the top, at all. Racial references were written very tastefully.

I must admit that I have come across some very tastefully written books on very important subjects in the YA genre and that makes me feel good when so many of the
Bard Jongleur
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In this tender, coming-of-age tale about true friendship, a young girl grapples with a missing mother, a distant father, and the harsh realities of racism. Set in the rural south of 1957, the story had the poignancy of "Because of Winn Dixie" and a touch of "To Kill a Mockingbird." But Thornton’s finely spun masterpiece is all her own. The prose was exquisite and evocative, capturing Gabriella's outer and inner world. The characters were sharply drawn with a deft hand. In fact, this was one of t ...more
Goodreads Description- Nearly everything important in twelve-year-old Gabriella’s life that summer of 1957 can be traced to the river. On the North Carolina military base where she lives, she meets the African-American Marine Hawkins by the river’s brown-green water. When her father, the General, treats her as if she doesn’t exist, Gabriella’s determined to show him she’s good at something: she’ll learn to swim. And it’s the river with its mysterious worlds that leads to her mother.

At the river,
Jane White
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: YA and Adult readers
Recommended to Jane by: A reading group
The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis by Elle Thornton is a touching and powerful story on many levels. Though considered to be intended for Young Adults, its appeal is far greater, and should be read by adults as well, similarly to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. As with that book, racial prejudice is a central theme, along with the coming of age of a young white girl in the South in the 1950's.

I read several earlier reviews of the book, and was surprised that none of them mentioned an element tha
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a GR author giveaway win for me through the SLT book group, and I am grateful to the author for generously shipping her book to me in the Uk. It's actually very difficult for me to rate this one, as I am clearly at the opposite pole to it's target market ( which I assume to be young teen girls). It is a gentle coming of age tale of a young girl (Gabriella) who lives on a North Carolina military base with her father, in 1957. To her father she is a child, yet she finds herself on the ve ...more
Kathleen Rodgers
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Literary Fiction at its Best! A Page Turner.

I started reading this novel at 9:15 p.m. after a long and weary day. By the third page, I was jumping out of my chair and rushing to track down the author. I'd met her briefly at a writers conference a few months earlier, so I hoped she didn't think I was crazy contacting her late and night to tell her this: "Elle Thornton, your story sings! It's magical and lyrical, and I wish I'd written it."

I am a slow reader, but this is a fast read.

The daughter o
Richard Sharp
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I liked this novel a great deal, although I thought it could be subtantially expanded to improve the depth of character development. The story is effectively told from the perspective of the young girl who is the central protagonist. Still, I would like to have learned more of her parents and other aspects of the "backstory" that enabled the girl to be so open and unprejudiced in an era with so much racial turmoil. Perhaps that is accounted for merely by the innocence of youth, but that might be ...more
Gregory Lamb
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Quiet Novel with Undercurrents

Thornton takes on bigotry, racism, and ignorance with her elegantly written coming of age novel. The setting is the American South in the late 1950s. The main character, Gabriella Winter, daughter of a Marine Corps General, learns to swim with the help of the General's aid, also a Marine but of a different race.

Through well developed main characters and a poignant reminder of the attitudes of those years projected through the behaviors of the minor characters, Tho
Fredrick Danysh
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: advance-read
This is an excellent story about a teenage girl coming of age at a Marine Corps base in North Carolina during the late 1950s. The Corps has become desegregated during the Korean War but there are still racists in it although the majority are seeing "Marine Corps green" as the only color that matters. Gabriella Winters has just joined her father, the general, after a year away at a boarding school while her mother is institutionalized. Her dad's marine orderly teachs her about friendship and not ...more
Noel-Anne Brennan
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! A young girl grows up on a military base in North Carolina in the racially charged 1950s, struggling to prove herself to her father, the General, and to find out what happened to her mother. She makes friends by following her heart, without regard to race or age. The more I learned about Gabriella the more I liked her. She follows the magic of the river, which is also the magic of herself, as she tries to make sense of the world. This whole story is magic. I should have said th ...more
Sylvia Hester
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as a first read. Lets just say, I am so glad that I did. This novel was so heartfelt that I transported to the 1950s. I was Gabriella, a child wise and bright beyond her 12 years on this earth. Gabriella befriended those that people ignored or not look a two. She is a child who looks at a person and not seeing the color of their skin the age on their face but the character that grows within them. At the end I think Gabriella found who she truly was and what she truly wanted. ...more
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-books
I really liked this book. It was a wonderful coming of age novel with some lovely characters. If there was anything negative, I would say there were a few instances that I felt the author rushed. I would have liked a little more padding on the final dramatic scene between Gabriella and Hawkins, but other than that it was very well written.

For a debut novel, I think Elle Thornton hit a home run for a Middle Grade/YA novel. I will definitely be looking out for more by this new author.
Larry Bassett
This is a wonderful short book that I listened to in the Audible format. It is a story about race relations. The main character is a 12-year-old girl Who is spending the summer on a military base with her father The General. Just to give you an idea of their relationship she calls him general. She becomes friends with a Black enlisted man who is the cook and house keeper for the general. The historical story of Emmett Till plays an important role in the story. It is a very touching story.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kindle freebee: Rather a sweet story about a girl in a small southern town where racial prejudice is rampant. One reviewer compared the book to "To Kill a Mockingbird" and it does have a similar message. Gabriella tries to take a stand to prejudice after she meets Hawkins, a part time cook her father hires. Unexpected and welcome literary excellence for a free Kindle book.
Bette Crosby
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautifully written first novel and I am certain we will see more from Elle Thornton. The prose is musical and the setting extremely realistic. She used the river as a touchstone to not only bring the story together but to weave a magic tale around her characters. This is a YA story that even adults will enjoy. Kudos to Ms. Thornton
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
After reading the first few pages, I wasn't sure, but I ended up really liking this. It's a short book, too, so I was able to start it yesterday and finish it today! I loved the analogy of having dead people end up in Atlantis.
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
i really enjoyed reading this book. the story was well written and descriptive. it was very sad but depicted the 1950s and how it was to be colored and white. I loved Emmette in this story and what he represented. over all a very enjoyable read
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, favorites
Simply beautiful.
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Loved this story and wish it had been longer!
John Hanscom
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This turned out to be a "young adult" novel, and it is excellent. It deasls with race relations in the 50s, a period of time I lived through.
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My background as the daughter of a career Marine and my professional experience as a newspaper reporter, technical writer, and instructor in freshman English helped prepare me to write The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis.

I only knew Emmett Till's name from the Bob Dylan song, "Ballad of Emmett Till," until one of my African-American students mentioned the name to me: Something in my student's eyes and v
“I'm too old to be ignorant as I am."
--Twelve-year-old Gabriella to the general, who does not want her to know about Emmett Till and the world's brutality.”
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