10 March 2022, The Tablet

Blindsided by a slim slice of heartbreak

Ariane Bankes reviews “The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka

Blindsided by a slim slice of heartbreak

The Swimmers
(FIG TREE, 192 PP, £12.99)
Tablet bookshop price £11.69 • tel 020 7799 4064

For a slim slice of heartbreak, this ­latest novel by Julie Otsuka is wryly upbeat. It takes its time to blindside you, drawing you into its watery universe with stealth and skill. We’re in an underground pool, a cool and cavernous chamber many feet below the sizzling surface of California, all wildfires and melting tarmac. Its demarcated lanes – slow, medium, fast – offer both solace and abandon to the frazzled regulars who ply up and down, shedding their everyday hang-ups in a loose fellowship of communal immersion. One of those regulars is Alice, a retired lab technician in the early stages of dementia. Down here she is one among equals, all lost in worlds of their own.

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