LEAP IN by Alexandra Heminsley


A Woman, Some Waves, and the Will to Swim
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Having conquered land as a serial marathoner, the author turns her athletic attentions toward the sea.

In Running Like a Girl (2013), Elle UK books editor Heminsley detailed her physical transformation: “Within five years I had gone from someone for whom any sort of exercise was theoretical—a nice idea, but something for others, for the ‘sporty types’—to someone who had run five marathons”—and someone whose example had encouraged others. At the very least, armchair exercise, like armchair travel, has its own bookish appeal. Seeking another challenge, Heminsley decided on open-water swimming. A little too neatly, she chronicles how her new adventure began on the day she was to “leap in” to marriage, and the immediate aftermath was so calamitous it made her more determined: her betrothed lost his wedding ring to the waves, and flooding filled their flat. She saw the sea as “the enemy. Thief of rings, wrecker of homes, menace to married life….It was the sea versus me, and I would throw everything at this fight, so determined was I not to be the loser.” The fight would involve swimming lessons, pools, rivers, and ultimately competition in the open waters. The author would discover that swimming presented a different set of challenges, perspectives, and techniques to master than running had and that some of what she had developed as a runner would work against her in the water. While she was becoming more adept at swimming in the open water, she and her husband were trying to conceive, so there are plenty of parallels on the body’s potential and one’s mastery over it—and plenty of inspirational exhortations—e.g., “I breathe, I push, I pull. I am.” Yet details of her swimming progress can only engage for so long, and the author devotes the last third of the book to swimming miscellany: the history of swimming, how to learn, what sort of suit and equipment to buy, other books to read, etc.

A lighthearted book to appeal to fellow swimmers.

Pub Date: July 4th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-68177-433-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Pegasus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2017


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