Pondlife : A Swimmer's Journal

3.97 (148 ratings by Goodreads)
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Here's the paradox: your body becomes steadily more troublesome just at that point when the world, which you are soon to leave, becomes sweeter, more poignant, more beautiful, more desirable...

The ponds of Hampstead Heath are small oases; fragments of wild nature nestled in the heart of north-west London. For the best part of his life Al Alvarez - poet, critic, novelist, rock-climber and poker player - has swum in them almost daily.

An athlete in his youth, Alvarez, now in his eighties, chronicles what it is to grow old with humour and fierce honesty - from his relentlessly nagging ankle which makes daily life a struggle, to infuriating bureaucratic battles with the council to keep his disabled person's Blue Badge, the devastating effects of a stroke, and the salvation he finds in the three Ss - Swimming, Sex and Sleep.

As Alvarez swims in the ponds he considers how it feels when you begin to miss that person you used to be - to miss yourself. Swimming is his own private form of protest against the onslaught of time; proof to others, and himself, that he's not yet beaten.

By turns funny, poetic and indignant, Pondlife is a meditation on love, the importance of life's small pleasures and, above all, a lesson in not going gently in to that good night.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 27.94mm | 340g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1408841002
  • 9781408841006
  • 317,681

Review quote

The adrenalin still flows in lively extracts from 11 years of journals -- Iain Finlayson * The Times * Both beautiful and savagely angry, this elegy to the self comes from the pen of an author who, having once made an attempt on his own life, now loves it with fierce tenacity * Daily Telegraph * Nuanced and vulnerable ... The plainess of Alvarez's language works to his advantage; it lets us see the courage in restraint -- Andrew Motion * Guardian * A marvellous book. Even the title Pondlife is spot-on: unlaboured, light and right. But it has no business to be as invigorating and absorbing - its success is against the odds -- Kate Kellaway * Observer * It is the near-collapse of body and mind that change his prose from the gently poetic to the wrenchingly poignant ... The final pages are an artistic triumph, and worth the reading alone; the rawness and linguistic economy with which he describes staring into the abyss is exquisite - and exquisitely distressing -- Robert Epstein * Independent on Sunday * A beautiful unfolding of a story, told in deceptively simple prose but with a great power to move -- Lucy Denyer * Sunday Times * Eloquent and fiercely honest, Pondlife chronicles nine years of dips by this self-confessed lover of language with itchy feet -- Jo Keeling * BBC Countryfile * Pondlife is a welcome addition to a growing library of titles about the solace and balm of the natural world -- Stephen Smith * Evening Standard * Al Alvarez is a writer's writer whose brilliant insight has illuminated everything from suicide to his love of poker ... A miniature classic of a man's defiant assertion against ageing * Metro *
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About Al Alvarez

Al Alvarez was a poet, novelist, literary critic, anthologist, and author of many highly praised non-fiction books on topics ranging from suicide, divorce and dreams - The Savage God, Life After Marriage, Night - to poker and mountaineering - The Biggest Game in Town and Feeding The Rat. His most recent books are Where Did It All Go Right?, The Writer's Voice and Risky Business. He died in 2019.
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Rating details

148 ratings
3.97 out of 5 stars
5 30% (44)
4 43% (64)
3 21% (31)
2 6% (9)
1 0% (0)
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