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Monday, 25 March 2013

Roma Tearne - The Swimmer

Review live on bookshow by Corinna christopher on 21st March 2013

This book is set in Suffolk and captures well the wide skies, flat water-strewn land and rushes.   Few people give it a sense of isolation with only the sound of birds to break the silence in the countryside.

In such a setting lives Ria a middle-aged poet residing in the family home and surrounded by a meandering river.  Her nearest neighbour is farmer Eric the local eel catcher and someone who is very dear to her having  given her much love and support over the years and during her lonely childhood.  She has a brother Jack, a manipulative young man who wishes her to sell the family home.  He and his family visit for holidays and the atmosphere is always difficult.

In the local vicinity there have been distressing incidents of butchered animals left around.  In addition there are rumours of illegal immigrants so that there is a vigilant  local police presence.

One night Ria is sure she can hear splashing water sounds, like someone swimming, but since it is dark when she investigates she cannot see anything.  She

also notes bread has been disappearing from the kitchen and one night there is the sound of piano playing.  Gradualy Ben a young Sri Lankan introduces himself.  He is a 25 year old doctor who has come illegally to England and working on a nearby farm wishes to apply for asylum.  Ria decides to help him with the forms and they develop an intense relationship.  Tragically the local police shoot him dead by accident and Ria is distraught.

Ben’s Mother Anula comes to England for the funeral and meets up with Ria but finds it difficult to form any kind of empathy with her son’s lover.  She does however meet up with Eric who offers her compassion and love.

The issue of illegal immigration is woven into “The Swimmer”and the repercussions of his death  form the latter part of the book.  The story is divided into three parts, Ria, Anula and Lydia. Each voice is clear and truthful.

Ria and Ben’s romance is unconventional since they are eighteen years apart in age but I did enjoy this unusual book.  There is a surprising and satisfactory
end to the novel.  Some of the plot was a bit strange, in particular the mention of dead animals in the beginning and also the relationship between Eric and Anula but in retrospect I did not mind.

Roma Tearne, the author was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka and educated in London and Oxford.  She is an artist and filmmaker and lives in Oxford with her three children.  She has written three other books and I would like to try some more of her writing.

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