She swims into the medals and then into oblivion – a sensuous, searing, compact debut from an outstanding new British writer.
This is a striking, supple and direct debut from a new English writer that both promises an exceptionally exciting future and provides an unusual, accomplished and saleable debut. It’s a character piece, charting the life of a girl who becomes besotted with butterflies and swimming on the same holiday when an infant, then grows up to become a world-class swimmer before, at 19, obsolescence overtakes her with disorienting haste… If taken on its own terms – as an intense and focused portrait – it is simply staggering; a miniature, but a perfect one. It is stuffed with gorgeously apt and fresh imagery and has tremendous verve about it. It reads, in fact, like a race, as it should.
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Swimmer is Bill Broady's lyrical literary debut: the story of a young female swimmer, a Commonwealth gold medallist, who escapes the peculiar loneliness of family and school life by finding her element in the water. It's a strange and melancholy tale: "Your first and last memories were of butterflies ... Before Dad's identification you'd named it already, in the fast-receding synaesthetic language of babyhood, MRRLYMBRXBRX". "You" is the unnamed swimmer; the novel is Broady's address to a girl who, at the very beginning of the book, has had her first and last memories: the butterflies who enthuse a child with a wish to fly that becomes the wish and talent to swim. In the first half of the book, the cast of characters is ready and waiting: Mum, Dad, Coach, budding champion and her competitive rivals. But nothing is quite as expected: "Stupidity! Stolidity! Senselessness!" is Dad's parody of Coach's "Strength! Stamina! Suppleness!", while Mum swigs gin in the bathroom. And Coach's commitment has its own price, one that is followed through in the disturbing sequel to the swimmer's success. At 19, her athletic career all but over, the swimmer is passed on to Coach Two, an agent who helps her to find, or lose, her way in the world of "promo": the money, sleaze and sex of the night clubs and glamour modelling that emerge as the pinnacle of Coach Two's ambitions.
It's a maddening world, literally, for the swimmer--and for the reader who follows her journey back to the "time before speech" and the early pleasures of butterflies. --Vicky LebeauFrom the Back Cover:
"A skewed fairy tale, a hymn to water… Broady's descriptions of swimming are supple, fluid and memorable."
"'You don't need to fly… that's what your imagination's for!" says the girl's father on finding his five-year-old daughter sprawled among the zinnias after leaping from the bathroom window, but she has acquired the taste for it, splashing and flying in the water at Worthing… The price she pays for her constant communion with the water, her ability to soar and fly beyond the dreams of ordinary mortals, is the competition circuit. Childhood and puberty are spent powering up and down pools, fighting pain, exhaustion and the water's changing moods. Echoing the aspirations of its heroine, Broady's stunning narrative seems to hover in its own distinctive element and, at times, to soar and fly. In prose of poetic precision and poignancy, he touches on the deepest dreams of the human heart."
CHRISTINA PATTERSON, 'Observer'
Broady's terse, lyrical tragedy is a devastating, highly focused study of talent and the slave trade in talent. The originality of its subject matter, its remarkable poetic cohesion, and Broady's lack of piousness, passionately argue broad social and moral criticisms which resonate well beyond the specifically English terrain explored… A beautifully unified first novel."
BILL BROUN, 'TLS'
"This slim but sensuously written first novel explores the psyche of a female athlete of extraordinary grace whose career is cruelly brief, overtaken by still more ruthlessly driven teenagers. Broady's book describes the life of a person so used by others she hardly knows how to experience her own self. Poignant and lyrical."
"The most interesting first novel this year – a dark and shiny account of the butterfly stroke, competitive sports and madness."
EMILY PERKINS, 'Guardian'
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Book Description Book Condition: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Bookseller Inventory # 97800065519730000000
Book Description HarperCollins UK, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0006551971
Book Description HARPER COLLINS, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: NEW. 9780006551973 This listing is a new book, a title currently in-print which we order directly and immediately from the publisher. Bookseller Inventory # HTANDREE0981838
Book Description Harper Uk, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 144 pages. 7.75x5.00x0.50 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0006551971