Book review: Swimming With Seals by Victoria Whitworth
There’s no shortage of books about wild swimming out this month and next, to the extent that some larger bookshops may soon need to think about making space for a dedicated wild swimming section. In Floating (Duckworth Overlook, out now), journalist Joe Minihane follows in the footsteps (breaststrokes?) of Roger Deakin and embarks on a wild swimming odyssey around the UK, while in Turning – A Swimming Memoir (Virago, 4 May), Jessica J Lee sets out to swim 52 of the lakes around Berlin, sometimes using a hammer to break the ice before taking the plunge. There’s some wild swimming history, too, in Swell by Jenny Landreth (Bloomsbury, 4 May), which tells the story of the “swimming suffragettes” who, in the early decades of the 20th century, made swimming – both in artificial pools (probably best not to say “man-made” in this context) and in lakes, rivers and seas – the egalitarian pastime it is today.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the lot, however, and certainly of most interest to Scottish readers, is Swimming With Seals, by the academic and novelist Victoria Whitworth. Ostensibly, it’s a book about her experiences of swimming off the coast of Orkney (wetsuit-less, since you ask, and yes, all year round) where she lived for several years. But there’s so much more going on under the surface – so many interesting undercurrents pulling the reader in different directions – that to simply call it “a book about wild swimming” would be to miss the point.