Blog Book Tour | “The Swimmer” by Joakim Zander

Posted Sunday, 15 March, 2015 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on “The Swimmer” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I received a complimentary ARC copy of the book direct from the publisher HarperCollins Publishers, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. 

Intrigued to Read:

It’s oft difficult to explain what draws my eye towards a novel up for review, however, in the particular instance of The Swimmer it was to segue back inside the thrillers of my youth. I used to read a heap of military espionage thrillers, which were not quite as intense as a Jason Bourne story (I opted instead to watch Bourne on the silver screen) but were equally of merit and of intensity of drama intermixed with the daring feats of the characters who strove not only to keep themselves safe and alive, but those of whom they were protecting and/or attempting to bring to justice; depending on the story-line’s arc.

The sweet part of finding The Swimmer in my postbox was the unexpectedness of realising this is a novel in-translation from it’s Swedish version! I must’ve missed this bit to the story whilst I had read through a list of synopsises in order to pick out my Spring selections; herein this is of interest to me, due to heritage lines in my ancestral past. Scandinavian history and modern society are of keen interest to me, and it is quite rare where I can tip my hat towards finding Swedish authors and/or any other currently in-translation to English which whets a palette of interest for me to read.

The sea of stories being regularly published is so very vast, I sometimes find it difficult to seek out stories across the channels of where the voices of story-tellers converge. It is a goal of mine to read more stories outside my own country of origin, and this happily, is one novel in that direction! On a smaller note, I could relate to the title itself without the context of the novel’s heart attached.

Blog Book Tour | “The Swimmer” by Joakim ZanderThe Swimmer
by Joakim Zander
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

A deep-cover CIA agent races across Europe to save the daughter he never knew in this electrifying debut thriller— an international sensation billed as “Homeland meets Stieg Larsson”—that heralds the arrival of a new master.

Early 1980s, Damascus. A nameless American spy abandons his newborn child to an uncertain fate. His inability to forgive himself for what he has done leads him on a lifelong quest to escape his past that will take him to Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq—anywhere where the danger and the stress allow him to forget.

Thirty years later, EU aide Klara Walldéen is learning to navigate the world of politics—the lines between friend and enemy, truth and lies. But Klara has just seen something she should not have: a laptop containing information so sensitive that people will kill to keep it hidden. Suddenly she is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe, with no idea who is hunting her or why.

Their stories converge one stormy Christmas Eve in the Swedish archipelago, where blood is spilled, shocking discoveries are made, and the past inevitably catches up with the present.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Crime Fiction, Thriller


Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1443433693

Published by Harper Books

on 10th February, 2015

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 432

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

Published by: Harper Books (@harperbooks)

an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (@HarperCollins)

Translated by: Elizabeth Clark Wessel (@lizclarkwessel)

Available FormatsHardback & Ebook

Converse via: #TheSwimmer

About Joakim Zander

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Joakim Zander has lived in Syria and Israel and graduated from high school in the United States. He earned a PhD in Law from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and has worked as a lawyer for the European Union in Brussels and Helsinki. The Swimmer is his first novel; rights have been sold in 28 territories. Zander currently lives in southern Sweden with his wife and two children.

My Review of The Swimmer:

If I were hoping for an electrically charged opening to a thriller, I have found it exploding onto the page in The Swimmer, where the heart of a father moves full-stop into action to protect the innocent babe in his arms before the unthinkable happens, and seeks to end both their lives. This is an opening unlike most stories set within the thriller genre, as generally speaking, most of the thrillers I’ve read recently are within the genre of Mystery & Suspense whereas this parlays into Military Espionage. It’s been awhile since I’ve picked up one of these and Zander held my own breath in bated suspense to see what became of the sickly baby, of whom I presumed was Klara; the girl at the center of the novel itself.

Zander has a distinctive voice of place and setting, imagining Klara’s past on the archipelago portion of Sweden on the Baltic Sea is breathed to life on the page, as you enter into Klara’s place in this world. Her grandparents are hearty characters who are as real to me as she is herself. She comes across as a girl locked between here and there, where her youth filled days were in search of love or something like love as she herself was unable to sort out what was missing; only that ‘something’ was not quite anchouring her into place or time. Her yearnings to find a connection to someone who would ground her to a moment where she could slip inside a bit of normalcy eluded her and it is as we catch up with her lateron, we notice she’s still not finding what tethers her heart anymore than her soul. She’s a bit detached, as if a part of who she is was never quite known or realised by the truth of who she is and how she came to be. An echo effect of where the Prologue gave us her entrance and yet did not explain how she went from there to here.

The entrance of George as a secondary character is not the kind of bloke you want to cross paths with twice nor is he especially munificently inclined. He’s more apt to spit his heel on tradition than to forsake playing the game he’s begun with his career, as he’s thirsty for living against any altruistic tendencies he might have grown up knowing about, as he’s entire focus is on himself. He’s ruthless in his pursuit of obtaining a lifestyle he’s become addicted to maintaining yet he’s missing the larger point to what life is meant to afford him. A moral backbone was not his priority, turning a dime into a million was more important than walking a straight path out of sin. To Zander’s credit, he wrote George so convincingly honest in of his own affairs, you have to give him credence for writing such an authentic antagonist who is completely narcissistic!

Narrating the under current of the story, is the swimmer himself, a man who seeks a break from his anguished heart and his wildfire of memories lit inside his mind with each lap he undertakes in the water. The water is his balm, a soothing vacuum of space where his mind is filtered from the surge of flashbacks and his heart can maintain a beat which is not fused to his reactions of what happened or even what he couldn’t do to prevent what happened. He’s left unnamed but not unknown. His intentions are quite clear, to make amends out of the remorse he has for the mistakes he could not avoid and the hours he’s lost whilst attempting to survive a job within a field which denies his existence. He’s a man without a buoy and without a place to call home; he exists to live a new day ‘elsewhere’ from here yet so far removed from the normalcy of life he aches to simply melt into the interior of another world. Your emphatically attached to his fate without the perception of how any of it can become righted in the end.

I personally loved the juxtaposition between the past and the present, as they carved out a perceptible intimacy with the swimmer. You truly can dig deep into his core, understanding him from the inside out by how the hours within the past moulded his future and how everything in it’s turn became more reverent to the present’s situation. Little nodules of insight, chosen and selected for what they can give as a back-story to the reader whilst allowing the swimmer himself to circumvent his life by living it backwards towards redemption.

The Swimmer is a finely wrought complex story where secrets kept from light were effectively meant to protect those of whom the lies had shrouded in mock safety yet in the end, it was the revelation of how the lies and secrets affected the lives they were protecting ultimately leant a hand in deciding how to stay safe and alive in a world where secrets are traded and exchanged as readily as any other commodity. This is a political and social commentary on a world just outside our own view, and the greatest sorrow is how one man was unable to become the father he never realised he wanted to be. It is a testament of how life can test your honour as much as the length of how far your soul will travel to have truth emerge out of chaos and unbend the lies which erased everything that meant the most in the end.

Interesting bits you learn as you read novels:

To be quite honest, I did not realise Sweden had an archipelago on the Baltic Sea! This was as startling to me to discover as the island I found just a stone’s throw north of Scotland where the weather and the tides interchange their discourse every half hour or thereabouts. There are curious places in this world, and it is quite riveting to find writers who are using unusual locales as the tipping stones towards creating stories which solidify inside our imaginations, fully immersed with the details they’ve provided and a well of gratitude in our hearts for the luxury of seeing it through their eyes.

Zander has a unique style of his crafting of this story, where he gently guides you towards realising what his characters motives are and what is making them take the actions they are seeking to achieve. He allows you to see inside their world, to tip their emotional hearts just within visible range, and then, pulls back, as if to allow his characters a small barrier between what he knows instinctively as their creator and what he wants to have revealed to the reader.

As I have previously read novels in-translation from French, I was pleasantly surprised by the style and craft inside The Swimmer due to how familiar the pacing and the narrator’s voice felt to me. Generally speaking, most translations lose a bit of the original writer’s voice or they forsake a lot of familiar ground for those readers who are picking up the novel from a different native tongue and in turn, are attempting to soak inside a story re-envisioned through translation yet hoping to alight somewhere close to where the author wanted to take you themselves if you had been able to read the story in their language. In regards to The Swimmer directly, I felt quite akin I have read a novel like this in my past, Zander used a methodology of the craft I am distinctively familiar with and thereby, perhaps the thrillers I had sought out in my youth were also on his reading queue lists!

This is one of the best stories I’ve read where the translation was flawless, where the English was not second to the Swedish and where the voice of the writer came through as strongly as if he had written it in English all along. Impressive to say the least! Curious: maybe I ought to opt to read more Swedish writers in-translation moreso than the French? Hmm,… now there’s an idea! Swedes evoke stories out of emotional conviction of their characters, they want you to live and breathe in the very breadth of what their characters are thinking, feeling, and sensing. I can relate to this kind of story-telling and it’s the grace of the translator who can elucidate the distance between two languages and cultural heritages. I tip my hat to the dedicated work Ms Wessel put into this novel!

Fly in the Ointment:

Alas! I had a feeling a few chapters in, I’d discover some vulgarity mixed into the narrative, as the genre is quite typical of having this included with an air of regularity. Part of me had hoped against it, to read an intense display of a thriller drama without the inclusiveness of strong language, but to wish for that is nearly outside the scope of modern literature, at least outside of the world of INSPYs. I’m finding myself a bit more reactive to finding the words inside novels than I had in my youth. I am sure they were sprinkled about as annoying as flies caught in the muggyness of Summer, however, as I’ve matured I have less patience for seeing them. They start to make their debut on page twenty-three, but I’m hoping as the first twenty-two pages did so very well without them at all, they will remain effectively infrequent.

Zander didn’t disappoint me — he only peppered in a strong word here or there, mostly on behalf of George, and allowed the story to stand without too much vulgarity at all.

Unsurprisingly, once acquainted with the character of George, the language sparking the grievance for me were related to his way of expressing his angst and coal-inked heart. His character had the most growth and the most to lose, yet part of me wondered if he was even aware of how deep into the thickets he’d gone before he couldn’t see a way out?

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.
This book review was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:
{ click-through for the road map for the tour }
TLC Book Tours | Tour Host
I regret due to illness and a medical affliction I was unable to post my review as scheduled on the 13th of March. I had to ease back into reading and blogging in order to forestall a relapse and to make a full recovery. I am thankful for the understanding of TLC (specifically of Trish) and for the patience of my readers and those visitors who were eager to read my thoughts on behalf of The Swimmer.

Here is a portion of the blog tour I enjoyed visiting myself for reader impressions:

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (Bibliotica | bibliotica.com)

Book Review: The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (Dreams, Etc | dreams-etc.com)*

Read This: The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (My Bookish Ways | mybookishways.com)

Review: The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (Annabel & Alice | annabelandalice.com)

The Swimmer Blog Tour: Review (A Dream Within A Dream | adreamwithindream.blogspot.com)

Book Review: The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (Mockingbird Hill Cottage | mockingbirdhillcottage.com)

*I enjoyed how we each picked up a thriller such as this after a long spell away from them.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.
See what I am hosting next:

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva

 Reader Interactive Question:
What do you love most about thrillers and the way in which they are written to encapsulate you inside a world of intrigue that defies the logistical barriers of how far a person has to go in order to survive whilst serving their duty on their job?

{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Swimmer”, book synopsis, author biography and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

Tweets I’ve Shared on Behalf of this Novel:

Comments via Twitter:

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 15 March, 2015 by jorielov in 20th Century, 21st Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, ARC | Galley Copy, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Crime Fiction, Debut Author, Debut in United States, Debut Novel, Espionage, Father-Daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Geographically Specific, Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards, Scandinavian Literature, Spy Fiction, TLC Book Tours, Vulgarity in Literature




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2 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “The Swimmer” by Joakim Zander

    • Hallo, Hallo Trish!

      :) You will not want to leave your seat once you open this novel! Goodness, gracious! Zander had me so focused on the father and the infant, I nearly missed the greater scope of what was happening! :( He pulls your emotional heart straight into the drama at the jump-start and it is an incredible story from that moment forward! It will definitely leave your heart at a steady pulse of expectation, but there are calmer moments too, where it becomes an intellectual suspense as well, because of all the interconnected threads that have to be sorted and understood. Thrillers like these keep you guessing until the very end — and that is part of the appeal for me, and it sounds like it is for you too. :)

      I’m wicked happy I could unearth how much I love reading Swedish fiction in-translation! I’m so curious what my second one will be! Thanks for giving me the chance to discover this author and story! Loved being on the tour!

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