Swimming Home is Deborah Levy’s take on the popular middle-class melodrama of an uninvited guest.
The Jacobs – Jozef, his wife Isabel and their teenage daughter Nina – are holidaying in Nice with their friends, but when they arrive at their excluded countryside villa they find a naked girl in the pool. Kitty is bone-thin with tangled red hair, has recently come off depression tablets, and is obsessed with Jozef, a famous writer. Pretending there was a mix-up with the holiday dates, Kitty – invited by Isabel to stay in the spare room – elbows her way into the bosom of the family and soon persuades Jozef to read her poetry.
What follows is a sun-drenched week of tension, long walks and stolen moments, as the Jacobs flit around the magnetic Kitty, who makes a habit of walking around naked and talking to herself. Levy interestingly portrays a young woman with a mental illness, but the story itself is nothing new – a successful career woman watches as her chauvinistic husband is tempted by a flame-haired imp of a young woman. We know what's going to happen. We know it will end disastrously. Swimming Home would work better as a short story, but weighing in at 160 pages it makes for an easy read.