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Swimming in the Ocean
ISBN: 1-894663-17-9

By Catherine Jenkins
Review by: Moira Richards


Swimming In The Ocean is an interesting blend of two strands of narrative. One is a woman’s remembrances of her life in the cold North and the other, an exposition of her newly acquired knowledge about marine life in the seas of the Caribbean whence she has fled to regain a sense of balance and control into her life. Catherine Jenkins uses this frame to address many aspects of, and problems surrounding women’s sexuality in modern times.

The narrator’s memories all revolve around her experiences with the men whom she has loved in her thirty-something years, and she learns that the waters are filled with scary fish. Fish like the barracuda that leaves behind it ‘a severe, ragged wound’, the anglerfish whose ‘parasitic male attaches himself to the female using his sharp teeth’, or the parrotfish that maintains ‘a haremic social structure, with a brighter, larger, primary male heading a school of three or four females.’ The ocean seems to be a very hazardous place to hang out even if you are a fish, more so when you are a woman alone. So what to do? Stay on dry land where life is safe from those dangers, or be brave and dive in to revel in the adventure and exhilaration of swimming in its currents?

Jenkins is a poet and Swimming In The Ocean, her first novel, displays the care with words and images that I kind-of expect from a poet and that make the reading of this work so enjoyable.

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