SWIM­MING STUD­IES

Leanne Shap­ton Pen­guin, £12.99

The Herald - Arts - - BOOKS -

Now a suc­cess­ful artist and il­lus­tra­tor, Leanne Shap­ton trained to be an Olympic swim­mer when she was in her teens, briefly rank­ing eighth in Canada. De­spite giv­ing it up when her par­ents moved house, she has never shaken off her fas­ci­na­tion with wa­ter and swim­ming, and it’s left an in­deli­ble mark on her art, as can be seen here in the re­pro­duc­tions of her paint­ings and a gallery of pho­tos of her swimwear collection. Those “brief, in­tense” years as a swim­mer, and the “quit­ting” of it, seem to de­fine her, and in this mem­oir she con­jures up mem­o­ries of how it felt, both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally, to de­vote her­self to a goal. These are not rose-tinted rem­i­nis­cences. The seeds of am­biva­lence, if not open re­sent­ment, were al­ways in her heart, and she re­mem­bers the pain and the re­luc­tance to get up for early-morn­ing train­ing ses­sions, as well as the ded­i­ca­tion. It’s a poignant, wist­ful hymn to a life that might have been.

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