The Union of Synchronised Swimmers
Cristina Sandu, Cristina Sandu
It’s summer behind the Iron Curtain, and six girls are about to swim their way to the Olympics – and a new life.
In an unnamed Soviet state, six girls meet each day to swim. At first, they play, splashing each other and floating languidly on the water’s surface. But soon the game becomes something more.
They hone their bodies relentlessly. Their skin shades into bruises. They barter cigarettes stolen from the factory where they work for swimsuits to stretch over their sunburnt skin. They tear their legs into splits, flick them back and forth, like herons. They force themselves to stop breathing.
When they find themselves representing their country as synchronised swimmers in the Olympics, they seize the chance they have been waiting for to escape and begin new lives.
Scattered around the globe, six women live in freedom. But will they ever be able to forget what they left behind?
'Simply and beautifully told, Cristina Sandu's second novel hides much beneath the surface.' * Daunt Books * 'Sandu's novel strikes home. This is a timely and lyrical musing on the troubles waiting across the border: racism and xenophobia, the gendered nature of independent life, and the unexpected loneliness of no longer speaking in one's mother tongue.' -- Miriam Balanescu * The Irish Times * 'With structural, determined prose, Cristina Sandu embodies the Eastern bloc cryptology of storytelling where strings of non-verbal cues and mistranslations become ways of speaking. Sandu evokes that eerie Soviet sense of hope, brimming with futility and grace.' -- Yelena Moskovich, author of The Natashas 'Vivid ... Sandu's direct prose has impact.' * Publishers Weekly * 'Intricate and intimate ... Cristina Sandu's talent with words can dazzle the reader, with still the capacity to leave so much unsaid ... The writing is as graceful as movements in the river they so elegantly swim in ... a small, punchy almost pocket-sized literary work of art.' -- Carina McNally * Irish Examiner * 'The Union of Synchronised Swimmers is a short, engaging read, and Sandu has done an excellent job on both the story and her English version. There's a lot to like about these sketches of women in exile, struggling to make a new life for themselves and to block out the memories of their old one ... It shows us that whether you jet off to a new job, or sneak across the border in your swimming gear, the mere fact of reaching a new country doesn't necessarily mean you'll live happily ever after.' * Tony's Reading List * 'Sandu's precise narration demonstrates the refined and sparing characteristics of Finnish modernism ... These ingeniously disconnected stories entice the reader ... Delicate and subtle.' * Helsingin Sanomat * 'Cristina Sandu's narration is magical ... Her poetic and airy prose weaves together the strongly metaphorical and the realistic ... In these moving stories about the fates of Eastern European women, her narrative is universal and titanic.' * Suomen Kuvalehti * 'Cristina Sandu's spare and sparkling prose is intimate and visceral. A deeply moving story about six women who dare to dream bigger than their muddy river, whose lives splinter from their tight synchronized formations into an unflinching, often unforgiving world. An exquisite and powerful read.' -- Lindsay Zier-Vogel, author of Letters to Amelia 'There are a lot of subsurface vibrations in the book. Desire, as well as clear threats, but we don't know whether those actualise. Ingeniously disconnected stories entice the reader to continue. On the other hand, they suggest that Sandu also has larger stories to tell ... The accurate, delicate and subtle writing relies on the refined and sparing characteristics of the Finnish modernism.' * Helsingin Sanomat * 'Six girls who live behind The Iron Curtain change their leisurely summer swimming routine into something more intense and purposeful. Peeks into their lives as adults are bound together by atmospheric vignettes of their childhood in the river and journey into the world of synchronised swimming. The kind of book you could read in one sitting, one breath, or spread out over weeks of indulgent moments.' -- Maggie Henrickson, Carmichael's 'Skilfully crafted and defined, airy, and multi-layered. Highly praised for the themes of detachment as well as the description of externality and differentness. A work greater than its size gives a chance to pause, feel, and reflect on what one has read.' * Toisinkoinen Literary Prize Jury citation * 'The Union of Synchronised Swimmers is the exploration of the old notion, 'the grass is always greener on the other side'. Each of the women finds herself in a very different situation to the one they expected, and yet for all their hopes and dreams, what they find is not always better than what they left. But this is not a dark or depressing book, instead Sandu writes each character with a degree of positivity and optimism whatever their circumstance, leaving us with the feeling that it is ok to wonder what else might be out there for us if we take the chance to seek it.' -- Hannah, The Raven Book Store 'For a quick, inspiring read, pick up a copy of The Union of Synchronised Swimmers. While it tells the story of six women who, when young workers at a cigarette factory in the 'not free' part of an eastern European country, decided to 'go for it.' As they swam in the local river, they learned a variety of moves involved in the new sport of synchronised swimming, hoping for a chance at 'something better.' Whether you consume this small translated tome in a single gulp or choose to savour it, sip by sip, you'll be exposed to some new ideas, ideals and even hope.' -- Linda B. Aunties Praise for The Whale Called Goliath: 'If a debut reaches even a fraction of the lyrical, graceful and melancholic beauty present in Cristina Sandu's The Whale Called Goliath, or of the exotic reality she weaves from golden fairy-tales, then one can expect a great deal ... The story is intertwined with unimaginably exquisite senses and feelings, the delicate and brittle question of what is the world in which we live ... This debut is beautiful as a prayer.' * Keskisuomalainen * Praise for The Whale Called Goliath: 'The debut novelist Cristina Sandu creates both a photographically precise and magical story of what it is like to live between two different cultures. The best thing in the novel is its language: dense, poetic, and sensually beautiful. How far will this young author end up reaching?' * Suomen Kuvalehti * Praise for The Whale Called Goliath: 'The novel exquisitely describes the pains of multiculturalism ... The Whale Called Goliath is at its most luscious in its linguistic expression ... It is a pleasure to travel through its delicate, melancholy atmosphere.' -- Turun Sanomat Praise for The Whale Called Goliath: 'The debut novelist Cristina Sandu creates both a photographically precise and magical story of what it is like to live between two different cultures. The best thing in the novel is its language: dense, poetic, and sensually beautiful. How far will this young author end up reaching?' * Suomen Kuvalehti * Praise for The Whale Called Goliath: 'The novel exquisitely describes the pains of multiculturalism ... The Whale Called Goliath is at its most luscious in its linguistic expression ... It is a pleasure to travel through its delicate, melancholy atmosphere.' * Turun Sanomat *
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