Firstly, huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Swimmers is a reimagining of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, set in a dystopian, futuristic, Earth that has been almost destroyed by global warming and climate change. This has led to extreme social inequality between those who live on the surface and those who live in the Upper Settlement. Pearl has lived on the surface her whole life believing that she knows the truth about The Ring, but after an attack close to her home and her union with Arlo, she begins to doubt everything she knows.
Both Pearl and Arlo were really interesting characters from the two extremes of their new world: with Pearl from the poverty stricken surface and Arlo comfortably living in the Upper Settlement. What I particularly liked was seeing how both of them believed that they knew the truth about the world and society, and how the word ended up the way it is. I also really enjoyed seeing how they would interact with each other about this and how they both developed because of their ‘union’. I really liked Savina as well, I liked the relationship she had with Pearl. There were a few characters that were introduced during the novel that seemed to just disappear as the novel progresses so it felt as though there were a couple of loose ends.
I liked how we spent a lot of the beginning of the novel learning about the world through the perspective of Pearl only to later go to Arlo’s perspective and then alternate between the two. I thought this was a great way to introduce the readers to society in a way that makes the reader suspicious of what is really going on even if Pearl appeared very naive at times (which could be a little frustrating). Additionally, not only did the perspective shift from character to character which was always made clear to the reader, the novel would also shift from past to present too which wasn’t always clear and made for some confusing reading in certain chapters which left me struggling to connect the dots.
Although this novel is a dystopian reimagining of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, this novel can still be enjoyed as it is even if you haven’t read Wide Sargasso Sea (if you have, however, there are plenty of parallels and references which feel like nice little easter eggs). I really enjoyed the world that Womack had created, for the most part it felt like a whole different world rather than a post-apocalyptic Earth. Womack’s depiction of an Earth ravaged by climate change and the excess of plastic was my favourite aspect of the novel. Although Womack’s writing is beautiful and lyrical in places, the idea that this kind of world could be a reality was very much present gave the book a different edge that was unsettling.
Overall, despite my confusion over parts of the plot and some characters seeming to just disappear, this was a really interesting take on the usual dystopian setting which I enjoyed and is well worth checking out.