Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

“You have to take a chance don’t you? Its like crossing the road with your eyes shut…you don’t know what’s going to happen next.” –Kitty Finch.

Nina decides that standing near Kitty “was like being near a cork that had just popped out of a bottle.” Nina thinks Kitty is a wild, adventurous spirit.

Jurgen wants to marry Kitty; Madeleine Sheridan is afraid of Kitty and thinks she is “mad.” Joe thinks she’s depressed and a dangerous groupie.

Kitty, a botanist, is unlike any house guest he’s ever met. She has stopped taking her medication and sees people walking through walls. 

Kitty is also beautiful with a habit of walking around sans clothes.

Kitty’s poem, which she calls a conversation, is called “Swimming Home.” In it, she calls the pool a “coffin” so its easy to surmise her intentions. 

Joe who pretends he hasn’t read her poem does not want to accept consequences. He warns his daughter not to get in a car with her, but then, surprisingly, he takes Kitty out for drinks at the Negresco.

Maybe its her madness that make her vision clearer, like the fool in King Lear. She gives a spooky foreshadowing of events:

“I know what you’re thinking. Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better  and we’ll all get home safely. But you tried and you did not get home safely. You did not get home at all. That is why I’m here…I have come to France to save you from your thoughts.”

Nothing is as it appears in this novel about two couples vacationing in France. Everything rings true, however. The characters are well-developed and the scenes are well crafted.

This startling novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.