Book Review: Swimming Upstream By Ruth Mancini

“Once I read that the end of a relationship is like being involved in a road traffic accident, which is quite fitting really, given what happened.”

Lizzie has begun to achieve all the things she thought she had ever wanted…but realises instead that she is far from happy. Then she steps out into the path of an oncoming car, and her life begins to unravel, setting off a life-changing chain of events. Lizzie leaves her boyfriend and her home and moves to London to pursue her career. There, she attempts to overcome the legacy of her past and find her true direction in life. Little does she realise that her life is about to take another shocking twist…and that the consequences will be enormous.

Swimming Upstream is a life-affirming and often humorous story about a young woman’s pursuit of happiness. Set in the early 1990s in Cambridge and London, it is also a story of friendship, love and divided loyalties – and the moral choices that Lizzie must ultimately face, when the chips are down.

I loved this 22 chapter book. My favorite types of stories are the ones that are drama filled, and this story definitely had plenty of drama. It was told through Lizzie’s first person point-of-view. Even though she was the main character, readers get a chance to understand the supporting characters as well. It’s not a one-person show. I enjoyed that all the supporting characters had sub-plots, allowing the conflict and tension to really heighten.

Swimming Upstream was raw and edgy; it wasn’t afraid to cover topics that society may consider taboo–like abortion, depression, date rape, psych wards, domestic violence, etc. The author had a great talent with dialogue and plot. The conversations were very realistic, and characters’ interactions with one another seemed true to their personalities. There weren’t any boring scenes–Ruth Mancini’s descriptions enhanced the story for me. I could see this story as an Oscar nominated movie.

My favorite lines were: 1) “It’s a strange kind of irony. The things that affect us most are the things we can’t remember.” 2) “I heard once that all stories end with one of three things: forgiveness, revenge or tragedy.” 3) “It was as if we were having two different conversations. Which wasn’t that surprising after all, as we were clearly having too entirely different experiences of breaking up.” I enjoyed that the story had a philosophical feel to it, helping me analyze certain things about life.

Lizzie reminded me of myself in a way. She’s somewhat awkward around the opposite sex, yet they find her charming and attractive anyway. I felt for Lizzie when she and Larsen (her ex-boyfriend) broke up. It seemed like her potential love interests were attractive and cute until they showed their true douchebag  colors.

My favorite scenes were: 1) when Lizzie and Larsen have an argument in the living room, resulting in a break-up, which was bittersweet. I loved the flashback of how they first met. 2) when Zara (her friend) starts talking about conspiracy theories, causing her to be admitted to a psych ward. It made me proud that she was strong enough to overcome it, instead of letting her clinical depression define her. 3) the creepy scenes when Martin (her other friend’s fiance) would hang around Lizzie. I wished someone would have kicked his butt. 4) When Tim (her friend) expresses he loves Lizzie. He was so sweet.

The story was based in Cambridge and London, so the phrases, spellings, and slang were based off England. It was cool comparing the way across the pond says things differently than how Americans speak. For instance, a flat (in England terms) is a house (in American terms).

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

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