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by Jenny Landreth

Biography / Autobiography eBooks of the Month Sport The Real World


Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 

A funny and bold account of how women fought their way into the water, and of what they did once they got there.

William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 is  Tom Simpson: Bird on the Wire by Andy McGrath, publsihed by cycling specialist Raph Editions

Other shortlisted books for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 were:

The Greatest Combeack: From Genocide to Football Glory by David Bolchover (Biteback Publishing)

Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig (Simon & Schuster)

Quiet Genius: Bob Paisley, British Football's Greatest Manager by Ian Herbert (Bloomsbury Sport, Bloombsury)

Swell: A Waterbiography by Jenny Landreth (Bloomsbury Sport, Bloomsbury)

Centaur by Declan Murphy and Ami Rao (Doubleday, Transworld)

Breaking Ground: Art, Archaelogy and Mythology edited by Neville Gabie, Alan Ward and Jason Wood (Axis Projects) 

Last year the prize was won by Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair)




These days, swimming may seem like the most egalitarian of pastimes, open to anyone with a swimsuit - but this wasn't always the case.

In the 19th century, swimming was exclusively the domain of men, and access to pools was a luxury limited by class. Women were (barely) allowed to swim in the sea, as long as no men were around, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested and fined if they dared dive into a lake. It wasn't until the 1930s that women were finally, and reluctantly, granted equal access. This is the story of the women who made that possible, a thank-you to the fearless `swimming suffragettes' who took on the status quo, fought for equal access, and won.

Part social history, part memoir, Swell uncovers a world of secret swimming in the face of these exclusions and shines a light on the `swimming suffragettes'. It celebrates some amazing achievements, some ridiculous outfits and some fantastic swimmers who challenge the stereotypes of what women are capable of. It's also the story of how Jenny eventually came to be a keen swimmer herself.

Swell is a joyful hymn to the sport and an exploration of why swimming attracts so many women. Ultimately, it is a book dedicated to our brilliant swimming foremothers who collectively made it possible for any woman to plunge in with alacrity, anywhere we choose.


Jenny Landreth's tale of the swimming suffragettes is a wonderful account of lost stories from the canon of women's sports history... Landreth's book brings these stories to the mainstream -- Anna Kessel

Fascinating and full of possibility, it is also properly snort-with-giggles-on-the-commute funny. * Alexandra Heminsley *

If you love swimming you'll love this. If you hate swimming, you'll still love this. From over-upholstered matrons gingerly climbing down the steps of wheeled bathing huts, to young girls swimming jawdropping distances up The Thames, this captivating book bowls along with wit and charm. * Jo Brand *

A brilliantly funny book that made me feel part of a proud and intrepid community of amphibian women * Josie Long *

If this marvellous watery odyssey charting women's swimming history doesn't make you want to jump in, I will eat my woollen bikini. * Doon Mackichan *

A wry and inspiring mix of memoir and social history * Melissa Harrison *

Very disappointed. I thought this was going to be a pictorial history of the bikini. * John O'Farrell *

Swell is part personal memoir, and part social history. Even if you aren't as wildly enthusiastic about swimming as the author, you'll find her book written with humour and fondness * Lifeboat Magazine *

As we jump into the waves with glee, Jenny Landreth asks us to consider 'swimming suffragettes who kicked hard for change in the once male-dominated world of swimming, less than 100 years ago. Written through the prisms of memoir and social history, it's the quest for equality that rises to the top of a poignant narrative. * Coast *

Billed as being the true story of the `swimming suffragettes', this book - both funny and informative - follows the fearless women who battled for access to beaches, pools and lakes, and reveals the author's own `waterbiography' * Townswoman *

Even if you're not particularly interested in swimming, this book will delight you. * Daily Mail *

Swell has the air of one long stand-up routine, a larky dash through the modern history of female swimmers * New Statesman *

A clever, intimate history of personal and female liberation, viewed through a well-fitting pair of swimming goggles ... Swell is a standout addition to a crowded pool of waterlogged memoirs. * *

Curl up with the empowering story of the heroines who made swimming possible for women. Swell by Jenny Landreth is a must-read * Women's Fitness *

A lighthearted, conversational history, with emphasis on the challenges women once faced just getting in the water, and the swimming suffragettes who defied genteel disapproval to claim the right to do so * Guardian *

Swell interweaves Landreth's own story with a history of female pioneers, Swimming Suffragettes who accomplished remarkable feats and paved the way for future generations ... She is at her best writing about swimmers past, and has done a thorough job of interviewing other swimmers * Economist *

Whereas the idea of diving into a pool seems like a great way to escape the heat, in the 19th century swimming was exclusively the domain of men and it wasn't until the 1930s that women were granted equal access to pools. Swell is the story of the women who made that possible, capturing the achievements and world of women's secret swimming. * YAWN *

The fearless women known as swimming suffragettes are celebrated in this wonderful book charting feminism and social history through the 19th and early-20th centuries. * Sunday Herald *

With examples of swimming heroines and some truly bizarre swimming cossies plus the story of how the author learned to swim, Swell will make you want to plunge straight in * Red *

Jenny Landreth is a delight... Swell is more than just a recollection of the author's own encounters; it's also a history of women's fight for the right to swim... read it and discover it all for yourself * thebookbag *

Jenny Landreth is a wonderful and hilarious writer, so this is in no way a stuffy account of historic events. She includes her own history of swimming, the 2012 Olympics, the developments in swimwear and, in her own unique way, the psychology behind why we swim * Wanderlust *

Landreth's writing is accessible and down to earth, with wonderful asides * The Times Literary Supplement *

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781472938961
Publication date: 04/05/2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781472938961
Publication date: 4th May 2017
Author: Jenny Landreth
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 336 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, eBook Favourites, Sport, The Real World,
Categories: Swimming & diving, History of sport, Memoirs,

About Jenny Landreth

Jenny Landreth is a script editor and writer. She has written two guide books - on the great trees of London, and on the best places to swim in the capital. Jenny was the main contributor to the Guardian's weekly swimming blog, writing on everything from pool rules, to swimming with children, and where to swim in New York. She lives in London. @jennylandreth

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