Book review: Turning + competition

By Jessica J. Lee
Published by Virago Press

Synopsis: At the age of twenty-eight, Jessica Lee, who grew up in Canada and lived in London, finds herself in Berlin. Alone. Lonely, with lowered spirits thanks to some family history and a broken heart, she is there, ostensibly, to write a thesis. And though that is what she does daily, what increasingly occupies her is swimming. So she makes a decision that she believes will win her back her confidence and independence: she will swim fifty-two of the lakes around Berlin, no matter what the weather or season. She is aware that this particular landscape is not without its own ghosts and history.

This is the story of a beautiful obsession: of the thrill of a still, turquoise lake, of cracking the ice before submerging, of floating under blue skies, of tangled weeds and murkiness, of cool, fresh, spring swimming - of facing past fears of near drowning and of breaking free.

When she completes her year of swimming Jessica finds she has new strength, and she has also found friends and has gained some understanding of how the landscape both haunts and holds us.

How did this book end up in my hands? I was in the right place at the right time! I saw a picture of the UK paperback cover in my Twitter feed and I knew I had to read it. The author’s publicist was very kind and sent me a copy to review.

Was it a page-turner? Not in the same way that a thriller might be but I did finish reading it in a few days. I felt like I was on a journey and I wanted to see which places I would be taken to next. Having said this, I think this is one of those books that you can dip in and out of at your leisure. That’s exactly what I plan to do in the future because I don’t think that one read is enough to take it all in.

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? To be honest, I had a very cursory look at the blurb to begin with as I was mesmerized by the cover. The book most certainly exceeded expectations.

Did I like the ending? The final sentence is as beautiful and poetic as all those that precede it!

Did the book leave me with unanswered questions? Only one: what next? And I'm clearly not the only one to look forward to Jessica J. Lee's next book if the number of features in the press seems to suggest!

Three words to describe it. Poetic. Introspective. Delicate.

Do I like the cover? I love it. It’s the first thing that drew me to the book… and I’m not even a swimmer!

Have I read any other books by the same author? Turning is Jessica J. Lee’s debut book.

Will I want to read other books by the same author? My answer is a big yes!

Will I be recommending this book? Another yes! You don’t have to be a swimmer or a Germanophile to enjoy this book. I can guarantee you’ll find something that speaks to you among the pages, regardless of who you are.

Anything else? Oh, I do love a book that comes with a map – or several maps! You can track the author’s lake expeditions… and plan your own!
In case you've missed it, you can read my interview with Jessica J. Lee by clicking here.

And... yes, there's an and! You can head over to Twitter, follow my account and retweet the competition post for a chance to win a copy of this book. UK only. Any comments left below will count as extra entries (one per person). Ends on 20/05. Good luck!

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