Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley

Review published on March 9, 2017.

Alexandra Heminsley really thought she could swim. Having only recently learnt myself I can sympathise, although in my case I knew that I couldn’t. This book is her account of her experiences of starting as an occasional recreational swimmer and becoming an accomplished open water swimmer.

Ultimately, though, this is more than a mere account. Alexandra’s honesty and engaging writing style really drawsthe reader in, making for a quick read. By the end, her struggle to master the counter-intuitive art of breathing in front crawl sounds almost humorous. Ultimately, the author’s new found love of swimming shows and, in parts, the book reads like an encomium to the activity which has inspired countless others, from the 16th century’s Everard Digby onwards.

Beyond this, the author’s remarks on sport and some of the factors discouraging women from participating are refreshing. Although some of these are specific to ladies, I believe that, for example, concerns over the competitive ethos are equally applicable in men’s sport.

The book ends with chapters on the history of swimming, answers to some common questions, and a buying guide to swimming equipment. These sections make a useful and interesting addition to the book, although the description of struggling into a wetsuit is probably the best recommendation against cold-water swimming.

In summary, this is an engaging book that does a good job of conveying the author’s own enthusiasm for swimming. Although she very wisely cautions against jumping straight into open water, reading this will probably make you think about swimming in a new way. On a personal level, although I have come to understand that swimming has much to recommend it, I remain unconvinced that I could follow in her wake, but reading this has made me think I should try!

Nicholas Cutler 4/2

Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley
Hutchinson 9780091959593 hbk Jan 2017

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