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March 16, 2013

Swimming Home

by Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy's short novel Swimming Home is a fairly gripping read; I finished it over the course of a single day back in January. It's a deep dive into a certain kind of madness; it neither lets go of you at any given point nor does it end up where you expect.

Two couples go on vacation. The first of these pairs a male poet with a female war reporter, along with their daughter, who has been mostly raised by the father owing to the mother's occupation. The other is a pair of shop-owners, who are hiding some financial distress; the two women are friends.

Into this already somewhat strange mix is thrown a young woman who appears to be at least slightly crazy and who turns out to have an obsession with the poet; her biggest goal is to get him to read a poem she has written for him.

It's a very impressionistic experience, elliptical and uncertain, and the vague sense of menace on every page kept me completely absorbed. If I had to say it reminded me of anything specifically, it would be my favorite films by David Lynch, Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet. It carries with it that same sense of strangeness undergirding normal lives, how things are more rotten than they appear, and best yet, I had no idea where it would end up. In a longer novel, sustaining this would have not worked for me at all, but at under 200 pages, this works spectacularly in Swimming Home.

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¹I'm reminded of Nicola Barker's Behindlings, which I started but couldn't finish because the strangeness allowed the propulsion of the novel to completely stall.

Posted by Brett Douville at March 16, 2013 09:45 AM

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