As Deakin sets off, his reader begins to understand how he sees the natural world. Tiny shells are the souls of drowned sailors; every single flower is named. He follows the flight of a bee or dragonfly so that we share its quotidian errands. He considers the eels he swims with. Really considers them ... time expands as he writes it ... he refrains from describing pictures. Instead he averts our glance, makes us look, slowly, at real time ... The remarkable and sad thing about his book is how urgent its concerns remain ... In each body of water, Deakin introduces us to wonderful, marginal characters ... The book is quietly erotic ... His descriptions of swimming are salty and intimate. Throughout its thirty-six chapters, the structure of Waterlog emerges as a river system, where the organizing principle, as it is with water, is gravity.
He maps Britain through its capillary network of streams and rivers ...The book is also an account of those he meets along the way, from the unfriendly school officials who despatch him, dripping, from the river Itchen at Winchester College, to an extraordinary vignette of a fenland eel-man ... What's so attractive about Deakin's book, and what makes it such a wonderful travelling companion, is—apart from its pin-sharp descriptions and deep humanity—its subversiveness. This act of swimming in the wild, away from 'health and safety', unsupervised, often unobserved, is, in some essential way, a quiet act of defiance.
What I ﬁrst loved about his writing on swimming was the otherworldliness he so keenly discerned. In Waterlog, the bewitching, Alice In Wonderland quality comes through ... I noticed the shifting moods of a character as reﬂected in place ... Deakin, expounding on the sensory pleasures of his environment, reminds me to pay attention. He rendered the pulse of life in exquisite, granular detail ... To cope with loss, pain, grief, we keep moving. We seek something new and beautiful to propel us to a different way of being. In the ﬁrst U.S. edition of Waterlog, Roger Deakin, one of our wisest watermen, guides the way.