WAR AND ITS AFTERMATH,
AND A MARRIAGE IN NEED OF REPAIR
Reminiscent of Camus’s The Fall, The Third Swimmer, makes us ask who are we to one another. And in the end does being human mean that we are capable of love? —Mary Morris, author of The Jazz Place
Rosalind Brackenbury’s new novel, The Third Swimmer, begins in 1939, in London. England is on the brink of war with Germany, and the future is uncertain for everyone. Thomas, a young architect, meets an office worker named Olivia and falls quickly in love. She is having an affair with a married man, but decides to marry Thomas in order to have a future, and children.
In the second part, twelve years later, Olivia and Thomas are struggling in the aftermath of war, to raise children and make a life together. The marriage is unfulfilling for both of them, and Thomas feels survivor’s guilt for having escaped the dangers of war. As a belated honeymoon, the couple sets off into war-scarred France. In Cassis on the south coast, they still have trouble talking to each other, until an emergency compels Thomas to risk his life to save a drowning woman. The couple’s future will depend on the outcome of this impetuous act of bravery.
Rosalind Brackenbury is the author of many novels and collections of poetry. In, 2015 she was made Poet Laureate of Key West, which she feels to be a particular honor in the city of Elizabeth Bishop, Tennessee Williams, and James Merrill. She has worked as a teacher, a book reviewer, a deck hand, a mother and a college professor. She lives in Key West, Florida, with her American husband. She spends part of each year in France.
The Third Swimmer took the author more than fifteen years—off and on between many other projects—to write. It is perhaps Brackenbury’s most personal book, because, although the novel is fiction, it is based on an event that happened to her own parents in Cassis, in 1952. As she writes in her Afterword to the novel,“I didn’t know about this event until after my father died. Then I found the newspaper at the bottom of a desk drawer. Forty years, a story lying in a drawer. As soon as someone dies, you begin opening drawers, allowing yourself this transgression. And there they lie, emptied out, visible at last, the artifacts, the signs of life.” In the years since her discovery of her parents’ adventure in the south of France in 1952, the story has haunted her. Now it has finally taken shape as her latest novel.