Thursday, January 3, 2013

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

If a year's first book is an auger, then 2013 promises outstanding reading ahead. Deborah Levy's Swimming Home is a slim powerhouse of a novel, seeded with quiet detonations.

Two British couples sharing a holiday villa in the south of France, one teenage daughter, and one sexy stranger, invited to stay on after she's found swimming naked in the villa's pool on the first day. Dark family secrets. Ulterior motives. Mental instability. Ingredients for catastrophe.

The photo reference that I used for this pastel painting
was taken when we were on holiday in Nice in 2004.
The mood reminds me of Levy's book: dark clouds
mass over the hills while the beach is bathed in sunlight.
The Hotel Negresco, which features in Swimming Home,
can just be seen; the pink dome far down the promenade.
Eerie, nightmarish undertones are just under the surface of an otherwise ordinary holiday. Levy's fascinating characters are at the mercy of their desires. The writing is tautly structured and so, even though it is packed with literary allusions, these remain understated and storytelling is at the forefront.

This Booker prize finalist is a very fine novel. I already know it will be on my best of 2013 list.

Readalikes: Bonjour Tristesse (Francoise Sagan) or The Red House (Mark Haddon)... with maybe a little Sylvia Plath and Hansel and Gretel thrown into the mix.

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