Nominated for the 2012 Man Booker Prize, Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home sounds like a book I would enjoy. British families on a vacation have their lives disrupted by a disturbed young woman, Kitty Finch, who happens to believe she has a deep, emotional connection to one of the family members, a famous poet. Kitty’s arrival of course brings to light some disturbing fissures in the happy family facade, as well as attracts the fascinated attention of the daughter of the family, who sees Kitty’s effect on her parents.
There’s an undercurrent of menace throughout the slim volume, and as the depths of Kitty’s obsession are revealed, the author just keeps raising the tension levels. The entire story takes place in a week — it’s an intense ride, and while we know how part of it at least is going to turn out, Levy maintains the tension.
It’s a very subtle novel, the narration flitting about between characters and hinting at much more than the actual text portrays. There were moments that really struck me, such as Kitty’s poem, but overall, I found myself unmoved. The subtlety may work for certain types of readers, and I’m sure there are those who’ll see much more in it than I did. However, it didn’t work for me. The emotions and motivations of some characters confused me, and the characters themselves were too obscure for me to care enough to struggle to understand. The final chapter as well, set years in the future, seemed to me unnecessary.
Thank you to House of Anansi for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.