The Union of Synchronised Swimmers (Cristina Sandhu) – book review

Finnish author Cristina Sandu has translated her own second novel The Union of Synchronised Swimmers, her first to be published in English. This work is almost a work of micro fiction. In a novella of just over one hundred pages, Sandu tells six separate stories and then provides connective tissue between them.

The story that holds this collection together is that of six women from an unnamed Eastern European country. They find their joy and escape from their jobs at the local factory in the nearby river, working on synchronised swimming routines and are soon ‘discovered’, slowly becoming the national team. The stories themselves take place some time after this. The women, scattered around the world, in different locations and in different places in their lives. Each story named for its protagonist and their location. They are stories of dislocation, of trying to survive and of a striving for connection.

This is a novel that can be devoured in one sitting, but this may not necessarily be the best way to approach the material. Each story is a small gem, Sandu using an almost poetic approach to convey deep sense of character and place in a limited number of words. So that it may be just as rewarding to take some time between each story, to savour each one and allow it to percolate a little before moving on. No matter how readers choose approach it, The Union of Synchronised Swimmers will deliver a unique and affecting experience.

Robert Goodman
For more of Robert’s reviews, visit his blog Pile By the Bed

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