Where We Swim
Written by: Ingrid Horrocks
Victoria University Press
Reviewed by: Ruth Avery
This book is a mix of a mother’s life, her family’s travels, and tribulations, interwoven around swimming holes, the sea, and people and creatures that live and depend on the sea. Thrown in the mix is global warming, COVID, and questionable animal tourism.
Ingrid Horrocks is married to Tim and is the mother of twin girls. Early on, we are introduced to the family unit, their lifestyle, and learn about the fragility of life both in and out of the water. Swimming has always been a strong part of Horrocks’ life as she feels she isn’t very good at it, so she perseveres. Her best memories seem to be water related.
Swimming is the thread of this travel book that takes the family to Colombia, the Amazon, America, and Australia. The author is concerned about all forms of water including that in New Zealand and the way humans are treating a valuable resource. Horrocks loves swimming and shows the joy and peace it brings through her writing. She incorporates a Māori perception of water – ‘awa as a living being.’
Their travels are interesting to read, especially in a COVID travel void. Imagine taking twin nine-year-old daughters to the Amazon – what could possibly go wrong? Amazingly not much did. They just got the experience of a lifetime and lived a little, outside of a health and safety-mad New Zealand. Horrocks brings us back to reality with talk of tsunamis, Indigenous Australian peoples’ struggles, and Extinction Rebellion protests.
Horrocks follows other writers that are interested in water – Charlotte Smith, Frances Burney, and Mary Wollstonecraft – even driving around parts of Great Britain to see where Smith lived her life.
Suddenly we’re back in New Zealand and it feels unexpected. The ending is a bit underwhelming, and I think Horrocks didn’t quite know how to finish it.
I enjoyed Where We Swim but was looking for a bit more drama. I felt parts were disjointed and it was trying to cover too many subjects in one go.