Fiction Swimming Home Omnivore

Published on October 17th, 2011


Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

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Blurb: 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. (And Other Stories)

Julia Pascal, The Independent

Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute. The prose style is spare and fresh … Swimming Home reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.Although a short work, it has an epic quality. This is a prizewinner.

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Abigail Deutsch, Times Literary Supplement

… minuscule yet magisterial … Levy’s cinematic clarity and momentum – which recall her earlier fiction, and particularly her work for the stage – convey confusion with remarkable lucidity.

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Ron Charles, The Washington Post

Without adhering to any Freudian schematic, the author toys with classic symbols, ironic one moment, murderous the next. From that gorgeous pool that serves as cradle and grave, she moves on to guns and severed tails, bee stings and stabbing pens, rocks with holes in them, a slimy sea creature that attracts and revolts, and enough variations on the Electra complex to electrify the libido of any 19th-century psychoanalyst. It’s witty right up until it’s unbearably sad.

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Philip Womack, The Daily Telegraph

Anyone who’s been on a villa holiday will recognise the tensions that permeate Levy’s stealthily devastating book. Sex and violence are never far from the surface. Levy is a keenly attentive writer, alive to the hyperreal nature of things, her prose achieving a hallucinatory quality as things seem to float out of the characters’ minds and into the text … an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.

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Kate Saunders, The Times

The plot is outwardly conventional, but Levy’s writing makes the story disturbing and truthful.

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Christina Petrie, The Sunday Times

Witty and poignant, Swimming Home’s 165 pages melt away like an unsettling yet familiar dream. In a visual echo of Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse (one of many glimpses of 20th-century fiction and film), 14-year-old Nina Jacobs observes her father Joe falling for the sunburnt redhead Kitty. Nina has been Joe’s companion in the absence of her mother, a war reporter. The deadpan friendship between father and daughter is one of the strengths of what is, among other things, a coming-of-age novel. 

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John Self, The Guardian

The book itself seems always to be on the brink of chaos: someone goes missing, plot lines are subverted and it ends with a shock.

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Sammy Jay, Literary Review

Much of Levy’s narrative feels dazed by the heat, and we drift from one sundrenched perspective to another. But as the reader is drawn beneath the placid surface of her characters’ experiences, Levy reveals a more urgent world humming with symbols of emotional damage.

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