Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt

FICTION The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story Of The Sugar Ditch Kids And Their Quest For Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway Publisher: Little, Brown Priced: PS14.99 (ebook PS8.99) SOICHI Sakamoto was a man with a dream: to train up a team of underprivileged Maui kids into Olympic swimmers.

This was the 1930s, when such visions were lofty enough at the best of times. Add to that the fact Sakamoto had no coaching experience; in fact he couldn't even swim, and that the irrigation ditches of Maui's sugar cane fields would double up as training pools - but none of that stopped the Three-Year Swim Club (3YSC) from eventually making a splash on the international swim scene.

Their triumphs overcame far, far greater adversities than those early practicalities however, and this is what makes their story - one which author Julie Checkoway was moved to save from remaining a littleknown legend - relevant beyond the pool of swimming and sports history fans.

It's also a beautifully narrated record of life at a time of immense racial prejudice and inequality, global conflict which threatened and postponed not only training regimes and the Games themselves, but the very lives of multiple members of the team, and an awe-inspiring reminder of how shared dreams - specifically Olympic dreams - have the power to alter destinies and unite nations.

After seeking permission of remaining living members of the 3YSC, Checkoway had a challenge on her hands gathering up pieces of a jigsaw that, in places, was scattered by scarce records and interruptions including the Second World War.

She apologises at the end of the book for any 'glaring flaws' and 'oversights' - if these do exist, however, the easy flow of her prose and respect for her subjects more than make up for it.

A truly rewarding read. Rating ....

Cockfosters: Stories by Helen Simpson Publisher: Constable Priced: PS15.99 (ebook PS9.99) THIS is the sixth collection from the highly acclaimed British short story writer, author of Hey Yeah Right Get A Life and Constitutional. Simpson's characters are ageing with each collection, and in Cockfosters we see them dealing with the challenges of middle age - menopause, empty nests, mouldering marriages and mortality.

The stories are sad and tender, sometimes political or formally inventive, and always beautifully observed. In the title story, tube stations become mini-chapter headings as we follow a pair of old school friends as they chatter about getting older all the way up the Piccadilly line.

Kythera, meanwhile, is an unabashed hymn of love from a mother to her grown-up daughter, structured around the recipe for a much-loved lemon drizzle cake. She has men's number, as always.

My favourite is Cheapside, in which a high-powered lawyer on his second wife tries to interest a teenager in a law career. …

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