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For the love of words and water

I'm a London-based book nerd and obsessive open-water swimmer (what other kind is there?), having swum outdoors year-round for 18 years. 


This site is dedicated to anyone with a love of words and water. 

Mine was nurtured by my mother, Jean. Growing up in Michigan beside vast Lake Huron, she was an adventurous swimmer, especially for a young girl in the 1930s. Each spring when the ice melted on the lake, her parents -- knowing what she was like -- forbid her from swimming. So she paid her brother to push her in.

I inherited my mother’s zeal for swimming, no matter the weather, and it’s one of the birth-rights that I carried to England from Michigan twenty-plus years ago.

The other was a hunger for books, nourished by our weekly trips to the public library, where we kids would trade one teetering stack for another.

In England, these interests converged, and I pursued swims in places related to writers’ lives and works – e.g., a dip in the Thames west of Oxford, where the novelist Iris Murdoch regularly wallowed with her husband, John Bayley.

Murdoch, a devoted swimmer, once observed that ‘Books and bathing have a close affinity, for the imagination transforms both’.

Having splashed around in writers’ waters for a while now – from the Forty Foot on the Irish Sea near James Joyce’s Martello tower to Mary Shelley’s Kent coast – I'm convinced that physical immersion in a writer’s environment heightens the imaginative sympathy that connects readers and authors.

The swims are a way ‘to enlarge and celebrate’ the reader’s appreciation – to borrow a phrase from another notable literary swimmer, John Cheever.

This site will feature blogs about my literary swims, with reflections on how water shimmers through a given writer’s life and works. I also look forward to reviewing swim- and water-related books -- because the next best thing to being in the water is reading about swimming and water. 

This site is a companion to my Instagram feed, wildswimmingbythebook, which features water-related quotes by an array of marvellous authors.

Dive in, and enjoy!

Sheila Fitzgerald

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