Another week, another book – and this one was the one I’ve been itching to read for ages because it’s so different!
I give you Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World by Caitlin Davies.
Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffrey Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world. She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour. But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true. Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.
About the author
Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.
You know how I have a problem with getting overexcited and fan-girling over good reads? Well, that’s about to happen again – this is a FABULOUS book! It contains everything about a book that I love and enjoy and the story is gripping; you are gunning for Daisy Belle from the very beginning and this is a truly remarkable story and indeed a touching tribute to the Victorian female swimmers who fought so hard to swim and race. From start to finish this book was an absolute dream to read – easy to follow, the right balance of description and it was just glorious.
And yes – I cried at the end because I didn’t want the book to end. I’m keen to move onto the authors’ other books, as Daisy Belle was brilliant. I was totally immersed in the story, it’s beautifully written and a real treat.