Swell—A Waterbiography


by Jenny Landreth

Swell is already beloved in the UK: it’s been named the Sunday Times’ Sport Book of the Year, and the Daily Mail assures, “This book will delight you.”
It is a funny and bold account of how women fought their way into the water, and of what they did once they got there.

These days, swimming may seem like the most egalitarian of pastimes, open to anyone with a swimsuit–but this wasn’t always the case.  In the 19th century, swimming was exclusively the domain of men, and access to pools was a luxury limited by class.  Women were (barely) allowed to swim in the sea, as long as no men were around, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested and fined if they dared dive into a lake.  It wasn’t until the 1930s that women were finally, and reluctantly, granted equal access to the water.  This is the story of the women who made that possible, a thank-you to the fearless “swimming suffragettes” who took on the status quo, fought for equal access, and won.

Part social history, part memoir, Swell celebrates some amazing achievements, some ridiculous outfits, and some fantastic swimmers who challenge the stereotypes of what women are capable of.  It’s also the story of how Jenny Landreth eventually came to be a keen swimmer herself.

Swell is a joyful hymn to the sport and an exploration of why swimming attracts so many women.  Ultimately, it is a book dedicated to our brilliant swimming foremothers who collectively made it possible for any woman to plunge in with alacrity, anywhere we choose.

Book Reviews

 “Swell interweaves Landreth’s own story with a history of female pioneers, “Swimming Suffragettes” who accomplished remarkable feats and paved the way for future generations.” –  Economist

“With examples of swimming heroines and some truly bizarre swimming cossies plus the story of how the author learned to swim, Swell will make you want to plunge straight in” –  Red

“Jenny Landreth is a wonderful and hilarious writer, so this is in no way a stuffy account of historic events. She includes her own history of swimming, the 2012 Olympics, the developments in swimwear and, in her own unique way, the psychology behind why we swim” –  Wanderlust

 “Swell is a joyous, noisy, drum-beating celebration of swimming and womanhood.” –  Charlie Connelly, The New European

“Swell is a wryly funny and seriously inspiring history of women and swimming… she had me at ‘waterbiography’” –  Lauren Bravo, The Pool

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