24 September 2012

Review: The Underwater Window by Dan Stephenson

At 24, Doyle Wilson is almost too old to be an Olympic contender in swimming, but he has devoted his life to the sport and is not willing to back away from what he sees as his only chance at a moment of greatness. His responsibilities as team captain and his goal of winning a medal in Paris drive him to train harder.

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.

Buy The Underwater Window at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Watermark, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780578108049
Rating: B
Source: review (see review policy)
t © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Peppermint Ph.D. 9/24/12, 6:37 AM  

I am amazed at the commitment involved in becoming an Olympic athlete. I started swimming some for exercise at the beginning of the summer and was even more amazed at the "pain and suffering" involved in the sport. Lungs can feel like they're on fire very quickly, and muscles you never knew you had will ache the next day. Will definitely be picking this one up :)

Daryl 9/24/12, 9:02 AM  

another add it to the list .. thanks!

bermudaonion 9/24/12, 9:25 AM  

This sounds really good. I just read a memoir by an Olympic swimmer and the changes their bodies undergo during puberty can wreak havoc on their swimming.

Barbara 9/24/12, 10:33 AM  

Since this was written by someone who has experienced it first hand, I'm anxious to read it. The story itself is ripped from the headlines, as TV likes to say. Should answer a lot of questions I've had about world-class athletes.

Zibilee 9/24/12, 10:38 AM  

Out of all the Olympic sports, I find swimming the most enjoyable, so I think that all the different facets of this book would be very interesting to read. I loved your review, and believe that I would also enjoy this book.

Sandy Nawrot 9/24/12, 11:52 AM  

I find these stories of Olympic athletes fascinating and a little bit scary. The sacrifices these kids have to make! It really makes you question whether you would want this for your child, really.

Beth Hoffman 9/24/12, 3:12 PM  

I didn't have my reading glasses on when I clicked onto your post and thought the title was "The Underwear Window" ... LOL!

My husband is a swimmer and loves watching the Olympics. I think this would make a nice little surprise gift for him.

Julie P. 9/24/12, 6:37 PM  

I think this book would be especially pertinent following last month's Olympics.

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