Friday, 10 April 2009

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

I have just finished the last pages of this book; the last twenty-four hours have been filled with annoying interruptions, when all I wanted was to read and savour the last few chapters in one sitting. This is an utterly marvellous book, a unique blend of memoir, travel writing, natural history, social history, written in an entrancing, poetic voice that transports the reader straight to the heart of Deakin's knowledge and experience. The book has a great deal to say about the social, physical and psychological importance of swimming, about our need for contact with the water, but is always good-humoured and never didactic; any polemic is gentle, but still has real impact. The stories and voices of the people Deakin meets on his journey, the swimmers, rowers and fishermen, ring out authentically and build a rounded portrait of the British relationship with water, and of the country itself. This book has made me want to do two things: read it again, and then go for a swim in an oxbow lake in the Windrush, as Deakins does and as I often did as a child. Brighton beach just isn't the same.

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