Dan Stephenson's own experiences as an elite swimmer form the basis of his debut novel, The Underwater Window. Although the story is fiction, the details of full-time training and the decisions athletes have to make as their years of peak performance begin to wane are authentic. Swimmers endure an enormous amount of physical pain to squeeze out just another tenth of second, which can mean the difference between being on the podium and being forgotten.
The story of The Underwater Window revolves around the friendship–rivalry between Doyle and Archie, the teammate who beats him most often. Doyle is the kind of guy who works hard, stays focused, and devotes his life to swimming. Yet he is well aware that he needs a fall-back position and that he's likely seeing his last few years in the sport. He stews over training long enough to get to the Paris Olympics, becoming a swimming coach, or accepting his admission into medical school.
Archie, on the other hand, seems to live the life of luck. He breaks training and looks no farther than the next few hours, but he always comes out on top. Deep within, however, he wonders about his obligations to swim and gets annoyed when people tell him not to waste his talents.
The Underwater Window also explores other aspects of being a world-class competitor. For example, although the training, traveling, competing, and camaraderie can give young athletes skills for later life, they also isolate them from their peers. As an elite simmer, Doyle had little time to date, make friends, or just hang out. Other themes are the conflicts that arise from being both an individual swimmer and a team member, the sacrifices made by the athlete's parents, and the mental and physical strength needed to finish a race.
Dan Stephenson's The Underwater Window gives readers an insider's view of what it's like to be an Olympic swimmer, both in the water and on dry land. Cover photo credit: Copyright 2012 Ginny Glass and Untreed Reads Publishing.
Stop by tomorrow for a great guest post from author Dan Stephenson.
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Published by Watermark, 2012
Source: review (see review policy)
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