Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

cover of Deborah Levy's novel Swimming Home, introduction by Tom McCarthy
‘Deborah Levy’s storytelling is allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute… This is a prizewinner.’
Julia Pascal, The Independent

Deborah Levy

Tom McCarthy

Price: £10

Paperback with French flaps, 210 x 138 mm


eBook ISBN:

Original language:

Published by:
And Other Stories

Publication date:
October 2011

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 and National Book Awards Author of the Year 2012


Swimming Home was also shortlisted for the New York Times Notable Book of 2012 and the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2013.

As 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 wife allow her to remain?

Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams.

Deborah Levy’s writing combines linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting just beneath the surface.

With its biting humour and immediate appeal, it wears its darkness lightly.

More Information

  • To read what Tom McCarthy (author of Remainder, Men in Space and C) has to say about Swimming Home, sugar mice and Deborah Levy’s place in the UK literary scene, download the [download id=”38″]
  • Swimming Home (2011, And Other Stories) was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize, 2012 Specsavers National Book Awards (UK Author of the Year) and 2013 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, while the title story of Black Vodka: ten stories (2013, And Other Stories) was shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award.
  • If you had subscribed to And Other Stories before this book’s publication, you would have received one of the limited number stamped, early copies of it and 3 other And Other Stories 2011 titles. Find out about subscribing to upcoming titles here.
  • This original edition of Swimming Home is still available for collectors of our series look, but you can also buy the paperback edition with a photo of a girl in a swimming pool which we published in association with Faber & Faber. For example at Foyles.

Praise for Swimming Home

  • ‘Deborah Levy’s storytelling is allusive, elliptical and disturbing. Her touch is gentle, often funny and always acute… This is a prizewinner.’ Julia Pascal, The Independent
  • ‘Readers will have to resist the temptation to hurry up in order to find out what happens . . . Our reward is the enjoyable, if unsettling, experience of being pitched into the deep waters of Levy’s wry, accomplished novel.’ Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review
  • ‘A stealthily devastating book … Levy manipulates light and shadow with artfulness. She transfixes the reader … This is an intelligent, pulsating literary beast.’  Philip Womack, The Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Deborah Levy’s brilliant Swimming Home is this year’s Man Booker Prize revelation.’ The Times
  • ‘…an unputdownable short novel about the price of emotional repression and the poisoned legacy of the second world war’ Robert McCrum, The Guardian
  • ‘Ms. Levy is a stealthy storyteller, lulling us while busy scattering clues.’ The New York Times
  • ‘Elegant … subtle … uncanny … The seductive pleasure of Levy’s prose stems from its layered brilliance. These are deceptively simple scenes…but they all reward rereading. Levy moves her characters in and out of focus, always one step ahead of our sympathies, ready at any point to disrupt a conversation with some evocative revelation.’ Ron Charles,  The Washington Post
  • ‘Exquisite … Levy’s sense of dramatic form is unerring, and her precise, dispassionate prose effortlessly summons people and landscapes.’ The New Yorker
  • ‘The inclusion [on the Booker longlist] of Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home, one of the finest new novels I have read (and already reread) in a long time, seems like a very good omen indeed. It radiates the sensual languor of sun-drenched afternoons in the south of France and the disquieting, uncanny beauty only perceived by a true daytime insomniac’  Andrew Gallix, The Guardian
  • ‘Her prose dazzles like sunlight on water.’  Sarah Crown,  The Guardian
  • Swimming Home is a statement on the power of the unsaid. Magisterial … Themes, phrases and images recur in rhythmic cycles through this fugal novel. Levy’s cinematic clarity and momentum convey confusion with remarkable lucidity.’ Abigail Deutsch, TLS
  • ‘Deborah Levy has made something strange and new … spiky and unsettling. In Swimming Home, home is elusive, safety is unlikely, and the reader closes the book both satisfied and unnerved.’ John Self, The Guardian
  • ‘Swimming Home is as sharp as a wasp sting.’ Christina Petrie, Sunday Times (6 Nov 2011)
  • ‘A compact treasure.’ Boyd Tonkin, in his round-up of the year’s best fiction, The Independent
  • ‘As the reader is drawn beneath the placid surface of her characters’ experiences, Levy reveals a more urgent world humming with symbols.’ Sammy Jay, The Literary Review
  • ‘Levy winds her characters up and watches them go, and they do as most humans do, which is to mess up in the face of desire. Her novel is utterly beautiful and lyrical throughout, even at the most tragic turns.’ Kirkus
  • ‘Deborah Levy has a sophisticated Pinteresque touch; she is also anarchic and reinvents cliches with spectacularly clever results’ Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
  • ‘…here is an excellent story, told with the subtlety and menacing tension of a veteran playwright’ Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
  • ‘Levy’s use of the third person is agile. Her movement between characters, shifting from one viewpoint to another, conjures the range of personalities with precision.’ Emma Young, Sydney Morning Herald
  • ‘Levy sets up her Booker-shortlisted tale of family trauma and betrayal in the sun superbly, flitting between perspectives and not wasting a word.’ Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald
  • Swimming Home is a beautiful, delicate book underpinned by a complexity that only reveals itself slowly to the reader.’ Ben Eastham, Financial Times
  • ‘A lean, filmic novel humming with secrets. Its prose is luminous and, despite the darkness of themes that include depression and loss, there is immense tenderness.’ Hephzibah Anderson, Daily Mail
  • ‘There are moments, in Deborah Levy’s short, stunning novel Swimming Home, when you think to yourself, haven’t I trod this path before? But then you read the next sentence and you recognize: No. Never before. This is wholly new, fresh and, yes, profound … [Swimming Home] floats like a wasp, and stings like one too.’ Tucker Shaw, The Denver Post
  • ‘Levy’s book begins with a cracking opening sentence and continues to be clever and unpredictable throughout … a book that, despite its brevity, pulses with powerful themes.’ Sunday Business Post
  • ‘This perfectly written, expertly crafted short book…[is] so well done and so clever.’ Jenni Laidman, Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row
  • ‘Dark, sometimes humorous, intriguing and tragic, Levy’s tale held me captive from its dramatic beginning’ Lucy Popescu, The Tablet
  • ‘Witty, modern and unpredictable.’ BookOxygen
  • ‘…the novel is as emotional affective and gripping as it is erudite’  Sara D’Arcy, Review 31
  • ‘Rich text and emotional depth ensure this novel is one those literary gems that demands to be re-read in order to reward its reader with greater discoveries. Full of metaphor and symbolism, there is much to be unpacked in this slender volume.’ Emma Perry, ArtsHub Australia
  • ‘Shatteringly strange, Booker shortlisted meditation on depression, sex and childhood damage.’ Metro
  • ‘I absolutely loved Levy’s writing style. A word is never wasted and she can concoct, like in the opening of the book, a whole set of images in a single sentence’  Simon Savidge, Savidge Reads
  • Swimming Home is a subversively brilliant study of love, and, like Kitty Finch, merciless yet hauntingly sympathetic, dark and quietly humorous.’ Avid Reader
  • ‘Short yet dense, this delicate novel is a tense and edgy read whose poignant ending leaves its readers unnerved’. Lucy Pearson, The Unlikely Bookworm
  • ‘The book is as clean and clear as the ringing of a bell, but quietly and meticulously poetic, full of beautiful language and deeply visual storytelling.’ Assistant Blog
  • ‘This is a short book which demands to be reread and very much a worthy inclusion on the Booker Prize list.’ Messengers Booker
  • ‘There is so much hidden under the surface of the writing…things are alluded to, imagery and symbols are potent and interesting and each of the characters is expertly suggested by pitch-perfect detail.’ William Rycroft, Just William’s Luck
  • ‘And it is the quality and style of the writing that elevates Swimming Home, turning it into a work of dazzling beauty.’  Living Between Pages
  • ‘…it’s a delight to encounter a novel that doesn’t hesitate to challenge either its reader or the limits of what a novel can do.’ Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This
  • ‘The prose of the book is haunting and will keep you hooked. For a short book, it clearly speaks volumes of the human condition’ Vivek Tejuja, IBNlive
  • ‘Short, simple and haunting.’ Editor’s Picks: Best Books 2012, Huffington Post
  • Swimming Home is a remarkable novel…It clings to you, embeds itself into your thoughts – indeed it is a ‘shining splinter’, one which I’ve found very hard to dislodge from my mind.’ Emily Rhodes, Emilybooks
  • ‘Levy’s little book …is a potent thing, with a power to unsettle that’s entirely disproportionate to its size.’ Claire Strickett, For Book’s Sake
  • ‘Levy winds her characters up and watches them go, and they do as most humans do, which is to mess up in the face of desire. Her novel is utterly beautiful and lyrical throughout, even at the most tragic turns….A shortlisted nominee for the Man Booker Prize, deserving of the widest readership.’ Booklist (starred review)
  • ‘Swimming Home gains momentum as it progresses and offers a conclusion that is powerful and surprisingly unexpected. A different and unsettling look at the troubles of the mind.’ Robyn Davies, Oh, You’re a Writer?
  • ‘It is a book – mystical and magical. It is intensely visual and visceral. It is eerie and strange, and affecting.’ Nicole Lobry de Bruyn, The Chook House
  • ‘Levy creates a fabulous sense of place’ Booksaremyfavouriteandbest
  • The wit with which Deborah Levy executes her impish, surreal sketches and brief set pieces throughout is impressive’ Paddy Kehoe, RTE
  • ‘Levy’s use of visual constructs and rich symbolism retains a powerful hold over the reader’s experience.’ F C Malby

Praise for Deborah Levy

  • ‘The strange brilliance of her imagination’ The Independent
  • ‘Levy is consistently striking and successful when reinterpreting and creating new contexts for literary and dramatic ideas.’ Times Literary Supplement
  • ‘[Levy] is a skilled wordsmith and creates an array of intense emotions and moods in precise, controlled prose.’ The Independent
  • ‘Levy speaks in an almost conspiratorial manner. Her writing is very similar, boasting a directness that’s hard to turn away from, but there’s nothing quiet about her written words.’ The Irish Times
  • ‘Levy sensitively conveys the phenomenology of textures, of skin and breath. Embedded in her coiled, polished sentences is the drive that pushes us together, and forces us apart.’ Times Literary Supplement
  • ‘Levy is an exciting writer, sharp and shocking as the knives her characters wield.’ Sunday Times
  • ‘She is one of the few contemporary British writers comfortable on a world stage.’ New Statesman
  • ‘Levy’s prose throbs its way into the imagination.’ The Observer
  • ‘Levy’s strength is her originality of thought and expression.’ Jeanette Winterson
  • ‘I made notes to read as much as I can find by Deborah Levy…’ Bookslut.com
  • ‘Lively, sharp, remarkably evocative with very few words, Levy is the best kind of “modern” writer’ Booklist (USA)

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