Swimming Home follows poet Joe Jacobs and his family – emotionally detached war correspondent Isabel and their teenage daughter Nina as they holiday with friends in the South of France. The arrival of Kitty, naked in their villa’s pool pushes the already tense atmosphere to new extremes. I’m usually really good at guessing where a story is going, but the tragic ending managed to catch me off-guard, though in retrospect, the clues are all there.
I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable, from deeply troubled Kitty, to the despondent Isabel and of course, the selfish, moody adulterer Joe. One concern I did have was the sheer number of supporting characters. For such a short novel, there are a lot of characters, which makes it difficult to really get a grasp on them all and I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps some could have been cut, or at least pushed to the sidelines.
This aside, I found most of the characters compelling. Each character has their own set of problems, which the shifting point of view helps us to explore. I found myself intrigued by Kitty, wondering what had happened to her to make her so troubled, something we never learn in the book.
Long after I had finished reading, I found myself thinking about the characters, which can only be a good sign.
I really enjoyed this book. It is not an easy read, in that it is deeply unsettling and the answers aren’t handed to you on a plate, but this is part of what makes this book great. It is quite a short novel, but it still manages to pack a punch. I found it quite dark and unsettling as Levy explores the devastating effect of depression. Levy’s use of simple, yet poetic prose lends it a haunting air, and the structure, which may seem complicated as it switches through several points of views, in a way mimics the state of mind of the characters.
Overall, I loved this book and would highly recommend it.