Review: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy


by - December 19th, 2012


swimming-homeA body in the swimming pool is always a good start. But this is no ordinary mystery story. And Kitty Finch is no ordinary body.

Her appearance at the tourist villa which the Jacobs have rented disturbs everyone – Joe, Isabel and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Nina, and their friends Mitchell and Laura. Jurgen, the German hippy caretaker, and their neighbour, Madeleine Sheridan, also feel the impact of her presence.

Kitty herself is an enigma. She is a copper-haired botanist with green fingernails; a poet; an attractive young woman who favours walking around naked; and a disturbed and disturbing presence.

Deborah Levy’s book is strange and unusual in its structure and its style. Her chapters are short, and their titles enigmatic: ‘Walls that open and close’, ‘Body Electric’, ‘Money is Hard’. We follow the events of each day of one week after the appearance of Kitty,  and Levy conveys the moods and thoughts of her characters through seemingly random remarks and actions. Each has their own problems and secrets, their own view of the world, and their own fears, desires and confusions. Each has their own particular response to Kitty. But nothing is spelled out and the tension mounts. The week begins and ends with a body in the swimming pool but the final chapter of the book is given to Nina – her memories and her dreaming conversations with her father.

This is a curious novel, full of psychological insight, but Tom MacCarthy’s ‘Afterword’, with its mention of Deborah Levy’s reading in Lacan, Deleuze, Barthes, Duras, Stein and Ballard risks making it seem like a dry academic exercise. His assessment of what he calls the “kaleidoscopic narrative” in this book adds more name-dropping confusion and is superfluous unless its readers are bent on deconstructing the text rather than enjoying a stimulating and interesting book.

Copyright © Ann Skea 2012
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

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