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  • Published: 24 October 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241994283
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $22.99

The Swimmers

From the internationally bestselling author of The Buddha in the Attic comes a novel about memory and loss, mothers and daughters, the stories that make up a life, and what happens when they start to unravel

"Up there," she says, "I'm just another little old lady. But down here, at the pool, I'm myself."

For the people who swim there each day, the local pool is a haven of unexpected kinship and private solace. For Alice, her daily laps have become the ritual that gives her life meaning, even though she may not remember the combination to her locker or where she put her towel.

But one day, a crack appears deep beneath the surface of the water, and then another, and then another. The pool must close for repairs, and with that Alice is plunged into dislocation and chaos.

Away from the steady routines of her swimming, she is engulfed by difficult memories of her own past. And as her sense of home, and of herself, slip further out of her grasp, her daughter must navigate the newly fractured landscape of their relationship.

  • Published: 24 October 2023
  • ISBN: 9780241994283
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City.

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Praise for The Swimmers

Here comes the new Julie Otsuka novel, so we can begin to live again

Colson Whitehead, author of Harlem Shuffle

Heartbreaking and astoundingly good

Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers

Stylistically ambitious and deeply moving

Kirkus Reviews

A goddamn heartbreaker

Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers

An unforgettable novel about mothers and daughters by a spellbinding talent

Daily Mail

A story of memory loss and its fallout for family, and of the power of pool friendship. Glittering and tender.

Sainsbury's Magazine

As a regular and sedate swimmer, I loved this novel...A quiet and thoughtful story about the small, steady joys of life and how quickly and irrevocably they can become disrupted.

Red Magazine

A story about mothers and daughters, love and loss, it will make you reconsider what's truly important in life

Kintsugi Magazine

Haunting, ironic and poetic in its resonance, this slender volume is a must-read...Don't miss this beautifully written, heartfelt, wry and wistful exploration of loss.

Woman & Home

"The Swimmers" is an exquisite companion. Though it doesn't answer the unanswerable, the novel's quiet insistence resonates: that it is our perfectly ordinary proclivities that make us who we are.

New York Times

I'm in awe of how this beautiful, graceful novel can hold so much grief and loss and love in its pages: a literary gem.

Nicci Gerard, author of Soham: A Story Of Our Times

Haunting, ironic and poetic in its resonance, this slender volume is a must-read

Woman's Weekly

With shrewd characterisation and original observations, Otsuka tells a tale of grief and memory that's quietly observed yet awash with dark humour and wit.


What makes a good life? What is a good death? The answers to these questions shimmer elusively just below the surface of The Swimmers


Amid an incantatory litany of totalising losses, there are snapshots of a unique life with all its complications. Superbly realised and incredibly moving

Daily Mail

Otsuka's slender, stylistically ambitious third novel is a marvel, capturing the hypnotic rhythm of lane-swimming and the devastating decline of memory and connection as dementia takes hold...Heartbreakingly powerful

Mail on Sunday, Best New Fiction

Her wisdom is staggeringly beautiful, implicating each of us

The Irish Times

Poignant and funny, I've never read such a brilliant account of this devastating illness, nor for that matter of the compulsive nature of swimming lengths in a pool.


'If it wasn't tragedy it would be comedy, and it nimbly treads the very narrow line between'

The Tablet

'One of the marvels of The Swimmers is its unshowy portrayal of the immense drama inherent in losing the mind before the body has expired. But perhaps even more impressive is its respect for the general confusion of living'

Financial Times

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