Book Reviews: Hats off to those who go Wild Swimming in Ireland

Tractor surfing at Lough Ramor, Virginia, Co Cavan, from Wild Swimming in Ireland
Tractor surfing at Lough Ramor, Virginia, Co Cavan, from Wild Swimming in Ireland


Wild Swimming in Ireland by Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge, published by The Collins Press

FOR most Irish people swimming outside of a heated pool has been relegated to childhood memory and maybe an annual August ‘dip’ in Donegal. So hats off to anyone who swims in Irish waters regularly.

Doubly so when it’s old school, trunks and swimsuits: the only neoprene in evidence among the many attractive photos in this guide is, ironically, on the cover, where a wetsuit-clad swimmer is pictured beneath Carrick-Rede rope bridge. (You’re advised that you might be called a ‘wimp’ by old hands if you wear one!)

Maureen McCoy, an open-water swimmer from Hillsborough, Co Down, who "always keeps her swimsuit in her car" put this wonderfully handsome book together along with Banbridge photographer and swimmer Paul McCambridge.

It lists swimming spots along the entire coastline, from Lecale down to Dublin durables the Forty Foot and the Vico, then on to Waterford’s Gold Coast, beautiful Beara, up the whole western seaboard, across by Inishowen and back again. There are inland lake swims too.

Each of the 50 swims listed has details on location, access and what to expect. There is guidance on safety, temperature, weather, tides and kit and, in case you were wondering, a list of reasons to swim outdoors.

Like David Walsh’s excellent Oileáin which, though aimed primarily at sea kayakers, contains much for general readers and dreamers too, Wild Swimming in Ireland is a serious guide book but also an enjoyable and informative read for any hibernophile.

Definitely one for the glove compartment, as opposed to the coffee table – along with your cossie, maybe?

Fergal Hallahan

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver, published in hardback by The Borough Press

IT'S 2029, and driverless cars, household cyborgs and children named after search engines are the norm – but so are water shortages, hyperinflation and the sight of commuters routinely weeping on their way to work.

Forced under one roof thanks to an epic economic depression that makes the 2009 crash look like the tiniest of hiccups, four generations of the once affluent Mandible family must navigate a New York that's becoming more dystopian by the minute.

But persistence pays off, for the reader as much as the Mandibles: what starts as unrelentingly bleak becomes a riveting – but still anxiety-inducing – read, as the family members resort to ever more desperate measures to stay afloat.

Masterful We Need to Talk About Kevin author and former Belfast resident Shriver constructs the frighteningly believable near-future expertly, adding a healthy dose of knowing black humour (authors are obsolete by 2029; every newspaper has folded) into the mix.

But it's not enough to lessen the sense of fear and dread that we could all be in the Mandibles' boat not many years from now.

Katie Wright

Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman, published in hardback by Little, Brown

IF YOU go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise. But what happens in Robin Wasserman's Girls On Fire is no Teddy bears' picnic.

It all begins with the discovery of high school student, Craig Ellison's body on Halloween. His death is attributed to suicide, but in the insular conservative world of Battle Creek, it doesn't take much to instil in people the fear that there is a darker force at play.

For student Hannah Dexter, life has always been pretty run of the mill. But when she befriends teen rebel Lacey Champlain, Hannah is introduced to a whole new world of fun, excess and danger. Nothing it seems can come between Hannah and Lacey, except that is golden girl, and Craig's former girlfriend, Nikki Drummond.

Hannah learns from Nikki that Lacey may not be who Hannah thinks she is, that there are secrets Lacey's been keeping from her, secrets that could tear them apart. The evil at the heart of Battle Creek may just be real. Robin Wasserman has created a modern fable about female adolescence gone horribly wrong.

An unsettling cautionary tale of friendships aligned and realigned, alliances made and broken, lives beginning and ruined, this is one of the most gripping reads of the year. Heady, atmospheric and thrilling, you'll be turning the pages long after you'd planned on putting the book down. And it is well worth staying up for.

Jade Craddock