About the Book
Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffery Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.
She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour.
But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.
Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.
I was delighted to be invited to read and review Daisy Belle for the blog tour as it sounded like such a wonderful novel. I’m so happy to say that I adored every single minute that I spent reading this book and it more than lived up to my expectations!
Daisy Belle is the story of Daisy who from a very young age is fascinated by her father and older brother’s swimming ability and she wants to be a part of it all. She learns to swim at age four and is soon taking part in her father’s increasingly elaborate shows. Daisy wants to be the greatest female swimmer in the world but she gets drawn to performing and diving too – all the time widening her skills and abilities.
This novel is set in the mid to late 1800s and Daisy is constrained by the societal norms of the day but she constantly pushes at her boundaries. From being a young girl through to adulthood she doesn’t accept why she has to be treated differently to men. She does get treated really badly at times in the novel by some of the men in her life and that was hard to read. She also struggles against her mother who believes that Daisy should be home with her and doing more lady-like things such as sewing. I was really rooting for Daisy to pull through the difficult times and to be happy.
I loved Daisy, she is such a great character – so ambitious and feisty but also so human and likeable. I could identify with some of her drive where swimming was concerned as I was obsessed with swimming as a child so it made me feel nostalgic for the water.
Daisy gets to do so many amazing things in this book and I could really imagine it all; the novel actually played like a film in my head and I felt like I was right there with her. The writing is so evocative; I felt myself holding my breath during the mermaid show and I was cheering her on when she finally got to attempt to make an attempt at a record for a long swim.
I found this to be a really inspiring novel in so many ways. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I’ll be vague but something happens to Daisy later in the novel and I could really identify with her and how she felt. I’ve been through something similar and seeing her keep trying in spite of what happened was so brilliant to read. It’s a good reminder of how we should never just give in and accept what life throws at us but instead keep pushing at the boundaries, whatever they may be.
I absolutely recommend this book; it’s a book I adored so much and I know I will come back to it and read it again in the future. It’s so charming and inspiring, it feels like a book that everyone will love. Daisy Belle is a real contender for my book of the year!
Many thanks to Anne at #RandomThingsTours and the publisher for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.
Daisy Belle is out now and available here.
About the Author
Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.
Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/
Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/
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