My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The first two-thirds of this book were right on the mark: it's a book about swimming, family dynamics, and growing up. We follow the main character, Pip, through her childhood and adolescence as she deals with her sister's debilitating illness and depression, her mother's agoraphobia, and her father's virtual withdrawal from the family by catapulting herself into the world of competitive swimming.
Having been a swimmer myself, I found the various passages describing swimming and the feeling of "having swum" very accurate. My favorite passage is the following: "It hurts to write with a pencil, to sit down on a chair, to pee, to take of my sweater, to run up the stairs, to answer the phone, to open a book, to get in a car, to get out of a car, to take off my shoes, to lie down on my bed. The ache is proof of an efficient swim; the more I ache, the faster I become." That is exactly how it feels and exactly what you have to think when you are training--otherwise any sane person would just give up!
The book begins to fall apart, however, when Pip begins to fall apart. It was strategic of Keegan not to end Pip's career on an Olympic high note, because many of the issues in the book would have remained unresolved or else have been too quickly and falsely resolved. However, as Pip tries to resolve things for herself and the writing tries to reflect her mental state, I, as the reader, found myself becoming less and less interested. Fewer things happen as the book progresses in this manner, and the introspection becomes tired and overdone. By the end of the book, I was no longer flipping pages with eagerness to get to the next one; I was flipping pages to get the thing over with. Feeling that way about any novel is never good.
I hope to see more work by Keegan, particularly fiction dealing with family drama and/or athletic careers, because she handles these very well and, with a little more work, will undoubtably keep a reader captivated throughout the duration of a novel. Really, though, I hope to find another book titled "Swimming" that focuses solely on a swimming career. And I don't mean a book like Phelps' No Limits, either. I want a story. I want a story told well.