Monday, September 10, 2012

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy. Number 1 of #365BigGreenBooks

So, the challenge that I've set myself begins. To review 365 books in 365 days. Books that I've read since January 1st 2012. You can read a little bit more about this here 
Where do I start?
Well, I guess this is as good a place as any.
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
I was on holiday last week. Yes, it was lovely thanks. We went to Bude in North Cornwall. So I took some books with me to read. This was one of them. It's been longlisted for this years Man Booker Prize and I'm delighted that such a new and small publisher such as &otherstories has a book on the longlist, although to be honest when it comes to sales, it's only when a book reaches the shortlist that things really start to kick off.
Anyway, I thought I'd give it a go. It's probably not the kind of book I would usually read, but the more I think about it, it has many of the ingredients that I like in a book. Dark humour, unusual prose, and a powerful and thought provoking storyline. Hey, what's not to like?
The story is set in a villa near Nice in the mid nineties. A famous poet, just arriving there with his family sees what he thinks is a body in the swimming pool. It turns out that this body is in fact very much alive. It is Kitty French, who is about to turn the whole families holiday upside down.
She is a huge fan of Joe's and wants to share a poem with him that she's written.
The family (strangely) insist she stays with them until she sorts out alternative accommodation. Kitty seems to possess a kind of hypnotic hold on the people she encounters throughout the book, and her self destructive nature threatens to destroy all of them. It looks at how depression can affect people differently and how difficult people can find it to totally remove it from their lives. If I had to fault it, I'd say that Jurgen the hippy German handyman, who spends his days getting stoned and reading Hermann Hesse seemed caricatured, but this is a  small fault.
At just over 150 pages, it didn't take too long to read, but to suggest that 150 pages is too short would be doing the book an injustice. I think that Deborah Levy uses language thoughtfully and doesn't fluff the novel out with flowery descriptions or pointless asides. The story is tight, powerful, sometimes disturbing, but delightfully written.
Whether it makes the Booker Shortlist, we shall find out tomorrow. I suspect not, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't (my predictions for the shortlist by the way are, Hilary Mantel, Will Self, Nicola Barker, Alison Moore, Michael Frayn and Ned Beauman). If it does, then it will make doing this years Booker Book Challenge a bit easier.
So part of the rules of my challenge is that I have to mark books out of 10. Remember, this is just my opinion. You may have very different thoughts about it.
It's available to buy here. Free P+P too (and we also pay our corporation tax). x

No comments: