Swimming, By Nicola Keegan

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The Independent Culture

This energising debut novel about a six foot Catholic school-girl from Kansas who swims her way to the Seoul Olympics casts sporting endeavour in a whole new light.

When we first meet Pip, she's a lardy nine-month-old taking her first swim in the baby pool, kicking off her diaper in a paroxysm of joy.

As she grows up, swimming provides her escape from a tragic family life – her eldest sister dies from cancer, her father meets his end in a flying accident.

Addicted to training-session highs, she also has to accommodate the inevitable lows of competitive sport. Written with verve and bursts of wild humour, Keegan's book explores the leaky boundaries between success and teenage self-esteem. It's an enlightening plunge into a world that we all come to know more about soon.