08 May 2018

Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero

Charles Sprawson

The last few years may have seen a wave of swimming memoirs, but it all began with Haunts of the Black Masseur in 1992. Sprawson’s memoir-cum-literary biography is a dazzling introduction to the great swimming heroes, from Byron leaping into the surf at Shelley's funeral to Hart Crane diving to his death in the Bay of Mexico. Here is a watery world that has obsessed humans from the ancient Greeks and Romans, to Yeats, Woolf, Fitzgerald and Hockney rendered in almost unbearably beautiful writing.


Roger Deakin

While Haunts takes us to waters around the world, Waterlog explores the ponds, rivers, streams and seas of Britain as Roger Deakin sets out to swim through the British Isles. As his journey takes us to places often hidden from view, a unique portrait of Britain emerges, showing our deep affinity for water. Yet as Deakin celebrates the magic of water, an undercurrent grows: that of the swimmer as an outsider among his landlocked, fully-dressed fellow citizens.

I Found My Tribe

Ruth Fitzmaurice

Ruth Fitzmaurice’s book takes the swimming memoir to a new level. For her, plunging into the freezing cold sea off the coast in County Wicklow with her tribe of friends is a release and a coping strategy from her other tribe, her family. She and her husband Simon have a happy relationship and houseful of wonderful children, but Simon has Motor Neurone Disease and can only communicate with his eyes. Pick this book up for its intensely moving writing about a marriage and friendship, and cherish it for the love that flows from its pages.

‘The Swimmer’

John Cheever

John Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer’ is probably the most celebrated short story about swimming, and for good reason: its many layers are as deep as the deepest pool. Neddy Merrill is swimming across Westchester County through friends’ pools and natural waterways. Yet as he travels – always picking up a drink or three where he can – time moves rapidly on and he arrives home to find it almost unrecognisable. Once this tragic story of alcoholism has hooked you, submerge yourself in the rest of the collection, too.

The Swimming Pool Season

Rose Tremain

At the heart of Rose Tremain’s novel is an idea: the idea for the most beautiful, most artistic swimming pool ever built. This fantasy belongs to Larry Kendall, whose swimming pool construction business Aquazure has recently collapsed. As his plans unfold and his wife Miriam returns from their sleepy French village to her mother’s deathbed in Oxford, the lives of the communities around them are woven together. A stunning portrait of a marriage and an exploration of how life can run away with us, Rose Tremain’s fourth novel is the perfect thought-provoking summer read.

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