Every now and then, you come across a young heroine in a book that you really really want to introduce to your 15-year old self. Perhaps it is because of their confidence. Or their bravado. Sometimes it is simply because of their normalness, their on-going parental-induced anxiety, their stage fright, and their then emergent bravery. Fig Fitzherbert is the current heroine I would like to have known as a younger me.
Fig Swims the World is the debut novel from Lou Abercrombie, and it is a wonderful, powerful book about finding your inner strength and chasing your dreams. Fig can’t swim, and has a fear of swimming brought after being thrown into a pool for some cute photography as a baby. Fig’s mother, nicknamed Mubla, is a top criminal lawyer and has ambitions for Fig, including getting Fig to overcome stage fright and making sure she achieves top exam results. Every new year, Mubla sets Fig a new resolution, often one Fig has no desire to achieve.
This year though, Fig decides she will make her own resolution – to learn to swim and then, to swim the world – which must be done undercover to prevent Mubla from busting her dream. With the help of best friend Stella, Fig first learns to swim, and then joins a group – the Old Mare Mermaids – with her new friend Sage. Fig is taken aback to discover the Mermaids are all much older than herself, although this does not stop them swimming strongly in both the pool and the sea…for the cake afterwards, obviously. (A lot like the rest of us, really).
Fig embarks on an epic 20 swim journey around the world, fake passport in hand, leaving only a letter for Mubla (and a secret letter for her younger brother Jago). And by doing so, she starts to confront her fears:
“As I pull on the event T-shirt, the enormity of what I’ve done suddenly dawns on me and the tears come spilling out. I’ve just survived the most dangerous swim of my life, with sharks swimming God knows how close to me… And I’m on my own. No one to hug me. No one to congratulate me. But… I did it. Despite all my fears”.
Of course, she keeps an up-to-date list of her anxieties as they evolve through her journey. Along the way Fig meets other swimmers, makes new friends (and some enemies), Instagrams her adventure, and learns about life; all the while on the run from a pursuing Mubla
I really loved this book: the bravery of Fig, her honesty about her fears, her supportive friends sending messages from afar, the community of swimmers she finds… It is uplifting and joyous. A read for anyone who needs inspiration for overcoming their worries or undertaking a new adventure.