By Deborah Levy
2012 / 127 Pages
The Setup: 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 linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. 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 just beneath the surface. With its deep psychology, biting humour and deceptively light surface, it wears its darkness lightly.
A most confusing and bizarre opening
With only 127 printed pages, Swimming Home could actually be referred to as a novella, considering the slim page count. The story first begins with A Mountain Road. Midnight. And is one page in length with Kitty Finch driving while the man continuously tells her to keep her eyes on the road. The story then forwards on to a group of English tourists by the hotel resort pool looking upon what appears to be a dead body floating (although some laugh and say it’s a bear). The one woman, named Isabel (a war correspondent) dives in to the pool and the supposed drowned woman roars to life, much like a bear . This woman is Kitty Finch, a botanist, whom we learn in a few more pages, suffers from depression. Off the rails, unhinged, profound depression.
What was highly confusing, was the liberal tossing about of the cast of characters and the fact that not a single soul seemed disturbed, or bothered to question this Kitty Finch as to why she was floating face down in the pool. I questioned quite often, and by page 15, “What Am I Reading”???
A Crazy Cast of Characters
The cast of characters is widely varied and all are unhinged in some way. It’s as though being near Crazy Kitty is making them delve deep in to their inner parts and discover we all have a bit of crazy in us. The only characters I enjoyed when they appeared on the page was Isabel and her daughter, Nina. Their characters were the only real ones for me, and their stories of pain were the only believable ones for me as well. The others were either so secondary or so silly I was annoyed at having to read about them.
My honest opinion
Although this was a very slim read, and something that should have taken me less than a full day finish, became something I had to endure and plod on to reach the end. It was just far too weird and dysfunctional for me to really get in to, definitely not my type of read. I personally don’t like having to put that much effort in to reading. (“Bonjour Nina, The dogs ate my jeans so now I only have my shorts. The CD is scratched but I like it for calming.” Claude.) 2.5 stars.