SWIMMING HOME

Mary-Rose MacColl

From the author of the international bestseller In Falling Snow, a beautifully written, heartwarming novel of a young woman swimmer in 1925

London, 1925: Fifteen-year-old Catherine Quick longs to feel once more the warm waters of her home, to strike out into the ocean off the Torres Strait Islands in Australia and swim, as she’s done since she was a child. But now, orphaned and living with her aunt Louisa in London, Catherine feels that everything she values has been stripped away from her.

Louisa, a London surgeon who fought boldly for equality for women,

more …

From the author of the international bestseller In Falling Snow, a beautifully written, heartwarming novel of a young woman swimmer in 1925

London, 1925: Fifteen-year-old Catherine Quick longs to feel once more the warm waters of her home, to strike out into the ocean off the Torres Strait Islands in Australia and swim, as she’s done since she was a child. But now, orphaned and living with her aunt Louisa in London, Catherine feels that everything she values has been stripped away from her.

Louisa, a London surgeon who fought boldly for equality for women, holds strict views on the behavior of her young niece. She wants Catherine to pursue an education, just as she herself did.  Catherine is rebellious, and Louisa finds it difficult to block painful memories from her past. It takes the enigmatic American banker Manfred Lear Black to convince Louisa to bring Catherine to New York where Catherine can train to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. And finally, Louisa begins to listen to what her own heart tells her.

less …
  • Penguin Books
  • Paperback
  • June 2017
  • 432 Pages
  • 9780143129967

Buy the Book

$16.00

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Mary-Rose MacColl

Mary-Rose MacColl’s first novel, No Safe Place, was runner-up in the Australian Vogel Literary Award. Her first nonfiction book, The Birth Wars, was a Finalist in the Walkley Awards for Journalism and in the Queensland Premier’s Awards for NonFiction and for Science Writing. In Falling Snow is her fourth novel and her American debut. She divides her time between Brisbane, Australia, and Banff, Canada, with her husband and son.

Author Website

Discussion Questions

1. In Swimming Home, the author incorporates historical fact into her fiction. How does this technique enhance the reading experience? What other novels have you read recently which also combine fact and fiction?

2. Two of the themes of the novel concern the birth of women’s competitive swimming, and opportunities for equality for women through education and employment. How are these themes connected?

3. Dr. Louisa Quick is an intelligent and accomplished surgeon professionally yet struggles to personally connect with others, including her niece, Catherine. Why? How did this change throughout the novel?

4. Louisa is a strong advocate for the rights of women to choose their own paths yet she has trouble accepting Catherine’s choices. Do you think Louisa was right to make decisions for Catherine? What do you learn about Louisa’s initial protective nature of Catherine?

5. Swimming Home includes vivid sensory detail about Queensland and London. Did you notice this detail while you were reading? What did these details provide and how did they evoke and enhance the locations and the story?

6. The scenes set at Catherine’s home in the Torres Strait islands explore the treatment of the Torres Strait Islander people by the non-indigenous government policies and enforced social strata. How did these politics become part of the overall story? How did they relate to other themes in the book? How do you feel about historic political information being incorporated into fiction?

7. How does Catherine’s role and personality change throughout the book? How does the past motivate her purpose for the future?

Essay

Swimming Home – The Inspiration

by Mary-Rose MacColl

I’m interested in the way unexpected moments can turn us around and take us in a new direction, and it was this idea that took hold and became Swimming Home. I’m a swimmer and the courage and fortitude of the young women who first swum the English Channel impressed me.

My great uncle René MacColl  made his name as a journalist and foreign correspondent during the 1930s. A decade ago, I happened upon a copy of his first book, A Flying Start, which details his chance meeting with Van Lear Black, a wealthy Baltimore banker and newspaper publisher in London in 1925. In wry humour and crisp prose, my grandfather’s younger brother  recounts a year living the high life travelling through Europe, Africa and Asia with Black on what were the first commercial flights.

René followed Black back to America and into a career starting on Black’s newspaper the Baltimore Sun. After he returned to England he worked for the Daily Mail, favoured by Lord Beaverbrook. He covered the death of King George V and the Coronations and Abdication that followed. He lunched with Marilyn Monroe, spent time behind the Iron Curtain as a correspondent. He was everywhere, knew everyone.

He covered the death of King George V and the Coronations and Abdication that followed. He lunched with Marilyn Monroe, spent time behind the Iron Curtain as a correspondent. He was everywhere, knew everyone.

I ended up with a story I love about an Australian girl far from home who wants to swim and her older aunt who seems to be trying to stop her. The aunt, for her part, was thrown one of those curveballs that get thrown at women when she was too young to cope and now can’t find a way back to herself. They are both of them trying to find a way back home.

And of course, there’s a wealthy American and a wide-eyed young journalist named Andrew, just to have some fun. More on the writing process and on the swimmers of Swimming Home can be found below.