Book Review – SWIMMING HOME by Deborah Levy

Swimming Home Synopsis

Swimming Home by Deborah LevyAs he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday.

Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe’s enigmatic wife allow her to remain?

A subversively brilliant study of love, Swimming Home reveals how the most devastating secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves.  (Amazon)


From the confronting opening lines of Swimming Home author Deborah Levy makes it quite clear to her audience that ‘a car crash of sorts’ will be played out in front of them. Just who the victim(s) will be and how violence will befall them is obscured by a shroud of simmering tensions fuelled by scarring from acts perpetrated long ago.

An overt character study, in Swimming Home Levy skilfully brings to the foreground the duplicity of each and every character – all are linked in some way, all have secrets and all are performing an act to the world. Generally an unlikeable bunch, rather than dealing with their own problems they either isolate themselves or when they do interact those close to them bear the brunt of their unhappiness.

In setting the darker subject matter within an idealised relaxed setting Levy has produced a level of dramatic intensity that I found uncommonly unsettling.

Levy’s literary prose is the shining light in this slim novel – introspective and gloriously descriptive, there is something almost tangible about it, and I suggest what earned it a place on the Man Booker Prize 2012 short-list.

Standing next to Kitty Finch was like being near a cork that had just popped out of a bottle – the first pop when gases seem to escape and everything is sprinkled for one second with something intoxicating.


I listened to this title in the audio narrated by Juliet Aubrey. Although Aubrey’s breathy performance evoked the intended conspiratorial tone of the narration, from a practical standpoint I found it difficult to listen to when there was background noise – listen to an audio sample.

Very dark and melancholic with characters that are intriguing but difficult to connect with, I think Swimming Home is not so much a book to be enjoyed, but one to be admired in an artistic sense.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

Have you read Swimming Home ? Do you want to?

Join the discussion below.

BOOK DETAILS: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy ( Audible | Booktopia | Kobobooks | Amazon )

Genre: Audio, Literature, Drama, Romance

Author Information: Check out Deborah Levy’s website

Some other books by Deborah Levy include Black Vodka, Billy and Girl, Pillow Talk in Europe and Other Places and Beautiful Mutants.

Other reviews of Swimming Home: The New York Times; Leeswammes; FarmlaneBooks; ReadingMatters; Just Williams Luck

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  1. says

    This book sounds really interesting. I like that the author somewhat foreshadows what’s going to happen and I love her writing style. The characters sound pretty flawed but maybe not so likable either. I prefer books with characters I can connect with or, at least understand a little bit even if I don’t really like them. Still, this book sounds like it’s certainly worth trying. Thanks for a great review!

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