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The Swimmers by Chloe Lane


Chloe Lane’s debut novel The Swimmers shows us the best kind of mother and daughter relationship. Erin and her mum are intensely close, they have the same brand of quirky humour, similar ways of looking at the world. Erin’s mum is a single parent; there are no other siblings, they have each other. But Erin’s Mum now has motor neuron disease which is swiftly, devastatingly progressing - ‘it had been some time since she had been able to speak. She could no longer eat or drink.’


Erin is entirely credible as a twenty-six year old, caught up in all the considerations and circumstances of her own life. She frets over her thesis topic, the ‘overwhelmingly mediocre’ response to the exhibition of her paintings, the break up with her (married) lover and yet the passage of the novel follows this very recognisable young woman over a weekend wherein she must accept, help with and witness the choice her mother has made to end her life.


The notes Erin’s mother is able to write to her daughter demonstrate that, while her physical world must be managed by others, her mind is very much uniquely her own; the requests and comments she makes indicate her strength, willpower and humour. For example, in response to the excessive array of dolphin ornaments in her room, she writes - SOS I CANT SPEND ANOTHER MOMENT WITH THESE FUCKING DOLPHINS.


Her wish is to ‘exit’. Lane confronts issues surrounding euthanasia with enormous sensitivity but with lashes of humour and humanity. Family relationships are explored both through recollections of the past and through the way each family member reacts to the present crisis. Beautifully written with convincing and highly engaging characters, I loved particularly the swimming motif which underpins this novel and the ending, which is so courageously and gently told.


Review: Paddy Richardson

Published by VUP

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