We Swim To The Shark Overcoming Fear One Fish At A Time

By Georgie Codd
Hardcover, 330pp
Little Brown (non-fiction) £14.99

REVIEW BY DAVE YOUNG

“Is your name really Codd?” asked Jenni Murray, concluding her Woman’s Hour interview with the author of We Swim to the Shark. It is, and her book is about confronting a lifelong fear of fish by deciding to swim with largest of all, the whale shark.

Georgie Codd’s fish phobia began after being bitten while swimming on holiday in Australia, expanding over subsequent years to haunt her dreams even on dry land. To pursue her radical aversion therapy she leaves her job and home to travel, from Thailand to the Hebrides, learns how to scuba dive and seeks out sharks in their diminishing native habitats: Overcoming fear, one fish at a time.

HONEST, FUNNY AND IMPRESSIVELY RESEARCHED

“There is such a big gap in the market for women explorers,” says Codd. “When I started this project, I kind of had it in my head that I wanted to be the next Jacques Cousteau.”

Her quest is an honest, funny and impressively researched story, skilfully combining the themes of travelogue, confronting phobia and self-discovery in a page-turning first person narrative. A graduate of the MA writing course at the University of Norwich her engaging and accessible journalistic writing style makes this book as easy to read as the best fiction.

In the course of a determined, physically demanding and sometimes dangerous odyssey, Codd meets many similarly emotionally displaced people along the way. Brought up by her mother and grandmother, adjusting to her grief and loss at the latter’s death, lies at the heart of this book.

THE THING THAT STOPS YOU JUST STAYING IN BED

Entertaining and at times extremely funny this is thankfully no trite essay about the pursuit of personal growth. Instead readers learn about marine biology, climate change and the importance of oceans. Codd is one of the only women to write, with first hand knowledge and considerable personal courage, about the science of underwater exploration, decompression chambers and – it’s very much a male dominated pursuit – divers themselves.

Frequently out of her depth in every sense, in the course of her Captain Ahab like pursuit, Codd describes her mission to swim with a whale shark as “an obsession, but one that also came to be my purpose, the thing that stops you just staying in bed because of your anxiety”. “One of my fears is failure,” she adds, “so I was afraid of how I would feel about myself if I didn’t achieve this.”

The best non-fiction book you’ll read, and you really must, this year. It also has wonderful cover design, by Ellen Rockwell, too.


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