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This review is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Fragments of Loss deborah levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories) £10

People stopped to look at her. To gaze and gaze again at the vision of a radiant young woman in a green silk dress who seemed to be walking on air [...] Kitty Finch with her wealth of hair piled on top of her head was almost as tall as Joe Jacobs. As they strolled down the Promenade des Anglais in the silver light of the later afternoon, it was snowing seagulls on every rooftop in Nice.

Swimming Home is not unlike a game of chess, somewhat unrelaxing. Deborah Levy places two ill-matched couples - Mitchell and Laura, Isabel and Joe, as well as the latter's pubescent daughter - on the superannuated if sometimes still alluring French Riviera. Here the nights are 'soft' and 'the days [are] hard' and smell of money. Novelists have always found it useful to take their protagonists out of habitual environments and place them elsewhere for closer examination. E.M. Forster, for example, makes this his modus operandi, and there's an ironic aptness in taking these 'English' characters to the Promenade des Anglais.

Being taken out of England is tantamount to being arranged on a psychiatrist's couch, and this is a book charged with psychological matter. Discombobulating narratives filter through the novel. The all-seeing neighbour Dr Madeline Sheridan, not without her own psychological crises, is unnerving, and the owner of the villa, the off-page psychoanalyst Rita ('Dominatrix') Dwighter, is present through her absence. The reference to Dr Ortega might have ...


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