A collection of swimming traditions and anecdotes wrapped in a celebration of the pleasures involved.
Former ABC News correspondent Sherr (Outside the Box: My Unscripted Life of Love, Loss, and Television News, 2008, etc.) is a lifelong swimmer, and her passion for the act, from a lazy bobbing in gentle waves to a hard push across the Hellespont (aka the Dardanelles)—her story of which is tracked at intervals throughout the narrative—issues from each of these pages. Even when her comments are at their most random—e.g., “Swimming…allows you to dream big dreams”—her enthusiasm propels the book forward. That enthusiasm bleeds over into her history of swimming, which has a gratifyingly great sweep. Sherr moves from the deep past, when immersing oneself was only typical during wartime, to Leander and Lord Byron making their own Hellespont dash, to Benjamin Franklin (who wrote, “I thought it likely, that if I were to remain in England and open a Swimming School, I might get a good deal of Money”), to the coming of spandex. With a breezy touch, the author chronicles the evolution of public bathing, in the process revealing the disdain with which some purists view swimming pools: “Swimming under a roof to me is like big game hunting in a zoo. All legitimate fascination goes,” said Annette Kellerman, one of swimming’s grand dames. Sherr also explores the application of physics on competitive swimming and on miracle fibers in the latest swimsuits. From start to finish, she searches for the essence of why swimming has touched so many, be it Oliver Sacks (“I never knew anything so powerfully, so healthily euphoriant”) or Chairman Mao (“Do you swim? Water is a good thing”).
Sherr sends a sweet valentine, with enough background to keep it interesting, to a love that has never let her down.