A Boy in the Water

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Excellent!  It is not often that i read anything other than fiction, but so glad that i read 'A Boy int he Water'.  It is hard to imagine someone so young swimming across the Channel.  Recommended.

My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy.  This is my honest review.
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Wow. That's all I can say about Tom Gregory's major feat of swimming the English Channel at the age of 11. I wouldn't try it for all the tea in China. A fascinating look at the trials and tribulations, of motivation, and not letting his coach down. Recommended.
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As an open water swimmer myself with a number of Channel-crossing friends, and as a child of the 80s, I was fascinated by Tom's story. It really couldn't happen today, I don't think (for many good reasons, safeguarding being one of them!). I felt quite torn, reading it - Tom obviously loved swimming and his coach, so there's a really innocent feel to that relationship; but as an adult reading it I was deeply concerned about the pressure he was under. 

Whether interested in swimming or not, I think most readers will enjoy the throwback to the 80s, which is beautifully and warmly described. I'm not sure non-swimmers will appreciate just how much of a stupendous achievement swimming the Channel at 11 really is - Tom is really quite modest about it, as though he still can't quite wrap his head around it even now.
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This is a really interesting novel about childhood dreams, and aspirations, and how adults can put pressure on children to do well. Thomas is 9 when he starts attending swimming lessons with his sister at Eltham swimming Club, run by John Bullet. He quickly moves through the classes, and is spotted as a potential for swimming the Channel. His parents are worried too much pressure is  being put on him, but John assures them he is capable of a lot more than they believe.
He practices  cold water swimming at a local lido then in Lake Windermere, and finally in the sea. The idea is that he will become the youngest swimmer to swim the channel , and beat the previous lad who came from the same club as he is  in.
Finally in 1988 the optimum time, place, and tides are right for him to swim from France to England, starting in the dark. He has bulked up with food, is greased up well, and is also aware of the emotional and mental problems he will endure on the crossing. However, he believes that as long as he can  see John on the support boat, he can and will make it.
The characters in this novel are well written, the tension is palpable, and you really feel for Tom, or Tefal as he is nicknamed, because of his wide forehead.  The ending is well-rounded, and highly believeable.
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A  insight into how friendship and determination can make for a brilliant story.
Shows how support from all around can make wonderful things happen.
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Inspiring and informative, I enjoyed this book despite having no interest in the subject matter (I dislike swimming, and loathe being cold). It was an inspiring read.

Many thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for a copy of this.
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This fascinating autobiography serves as a beautiful tribute to the man who coached Tom Gregory to be the youngest person ever to swim the Channel, a record that will now never be broken thanks to changes in the law.

Each chapter opens with a description of what it was like during various stages of the Channel crossing before jumping back in time to detail Gregory's path into long distance open water swimming. I found this a little confusing at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was really interesting watching his development, especially since I have children involved in competitive swimming as well.

You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy this. It's very much about a personal journey and the positive influence that a coach (or other leadership figure) can have on a child's life. Just have hankies at the ready for the end!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC without obligation.
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I loved  Tom Gregory's honesty in this beautifully written and easy read.  It is both a memoir of how he successfully became the youngest channel swimmer ever and a tribute to his dedicated coach John Bullet who had a real gift for inspiring, stretching and getting the best out of his swimmers.  Recommended read for open water swimmers and those looking for inspirational true stories of what we can achieve when we set our hearts, minds and attitudes on something that really stretches us way out of our comfort zone.
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What an amazing read!

I really didn't expect this book to capture my imagination and be so emotional. 

You really connect with the main character Tom as he shares all of his memories of training and swimming the channel. So inspiring given his young age. 

I would absolutely recommend this book.
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What a fabulous little book! I really didn't expect to become so emotional while reading the story of the young boy who achieved his dream of swimming the Channel at the age of 11! You really connect with Tom as he shares his memories of the actual Channel swim, alongside his other childhood memories of how he got into swimming, and how it took over his - and that of his family! - life.

Being set back in the 1980's also means lots of wonderful retro mentions that brought back so many wonderful memories for me, and as I swam a lot too in my younger days it also brought back those memories of early morning training sessions, how big the pool first felt when you first show up and how the bond between a swimmer and their coach becomes so strong and important.

At times you often forget just how young he was to achieve something so spectacular, and it charts his progress in wonderful detail and captures the emotions so well. It's a book that made me laugh and cry in equal measures and the last chapter especially really connected deeply with me and just shows the importance of youngsters finding people who believe in them and giving up their spare time to help others.

A delight to read! Inspiring, uplifting and highly recommended!
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A fantastic account of an 11 year old boy swimming the channel.. the relationship between him and his coach is brilliant. This feat of endurance is told in such an interesting way I wished there was another book afterwards.
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A truly inspirational read.  This book takes the reader through a swim across the channel by a very young boy, punctuated by the story of how he ended up taking up the challenge.  A real page turner and great for those of us who remember the 1980s!
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What an amazing and inspiring story, of the 11 year old Tom Gregory’s cross-channel swim.  This was a remarkable tale of the relationships between a young boy, his older sister, his parents,  his swimming companions, and ultimately and most importantly, his coach John Bullet. For me, it was the trust and respect that the young Tom had for his coach that was the most enduring part of his story. To begin with, the young Tom came across as a bit meek, a child who just went along with whatever the swimming team and his coach wanted him to do. But I was so wrong, as this boy displayed a core of steel and self-belief, very rare in one so young. To achieve what he did in crossing the Chanel was a remarkable feat, and so graphically described in his memoir, I was holding my breath as he struggled to finish, firstly his training swims on Lake Windermere, then finally the Channel. The memoir is so well written, it was a pleasure to read, with humour, pathos, heartbreak, and lots of lovely memories of the music of the day, and the era during which my own children grew up. It was a very different time, and causes me to consider whether children in the present time will ever have the same opportunity to push themselves to the limit as Tom did, hidebound as they are by rules, regulations and Health and Safety edicts.
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this memoir, and to Tom Gregory for an most enjoyable and thought provoking story.
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What an incredible achievement to swim the channel at such a young age! The srory reminded me somewhat of my own carefree childhood. An amazing story about reluctance turning into determination. Fantastic!
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I really enjoyed this wonderful account of Tom Gregory’s incredible achievement of swimming the channel at only 11 years old. A remarkable feat of endurance.  Tom writes evocatively and took me back to a bygone era of pop music recorded on cassettes from radios and being replayed on Walkmans, tinny transistor radios, and a carefree, adventurous way of life unfettered by today’s Health and Safety regulations. More poignantly, an outstanding and total trust by Tom and the other children, and indeed the parents, in a visionary man, John Bullet, who for sure without whom none of the achievements of the children entrusted to his care and training would have been possible. 

After I started to read, I discovered I had a link to the story as I grew up in the Avery Hill area of Eltham and was a frequent user of Eltham Baths.  I recognised all of the descriptions, but my post swim delicacy of a crusty cheese roll and hot oxo drink in the cafe is in my memory only.  

This is Tom's story but it is also the story of the remarkable man that was John Bullett.  He was a hard task master but he had to be to get the swimmers hardened up for their channel challenges.  However he also cared for them and Tom writes about his fondness for John with poignancy and tact so that there is no misunderstanding of their relationship.

I highly recommend this book.
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A Boy in the Water by Tom Gregory a three-star read that will make you wish in water. I don’t know why I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did, it reminded me of a great childhood, back when we could stay out for all hours and the health and safety police weren’t there to stop everything. But even though I know this is based on a true story I was surprised by how much they could get away with, reading this made me realise why we now have all the laws, even though he may have wanted it the gruelling tasks that Tom Gregory faces. There are safety precautions in place and people making sure they are safe but still the battle. I don’t want to give anything away as there is more to this story, and some people will no doubt enjoy it much more than I did. I hope if the blurb makes you intrigued and it sounds like something you fancy please give it a go.
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Tom Gregory’s channel swim memoir A Boy in the Water couldn’t be more timely, published as it is the day after Lewis Pugh successfully completed The Long Swim by swimming the length of the English Channel from Cornwall to Dover.

It’s impressive enough to discover that Tom Gregory goes from being unable to swim a width of the pool without stopping for a rest to swimming the English Channel within four years. What makes his story all the more incredible is that he was only eleven years old when he did so.

It couldn’t happen today, not least because on 26th November 2000 the Channel Swimming Association ruled that no one under the age of 16 could attempt a solo Channel swim. But there are a host of other reasons and regulations why Tom Gregory’s transformation from reluctant Wednesday evening swim club participant to member of an elite group of swimmers would be less likely these days.

Here, kids pile into a rusty minibus to go away on swimming weekends in Dover and weeks up in the Lake District with their unorthodox swimming coach, sleep in communal tents I remember from school camps and eat stodge as we did, all while going through punishing cold water training. It is the story of another time.

That’s not to say that there are no rules, no safety checks, no concerned parents, or a coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing. There are all those things, just not as tightly controlled by regulations as they are today. What sets Tom Gregory’s story apart is the abiding trust and belief in the people behind the training and channel crossing attempt, and one man in particular, Tom Gregory’s maverick coach John Bullet.

Tom Gregory tells his story through diary-like entries of his own channel swim interspersed with flashbacks to how he came to start swimming at the pool in Eltham only four years earlier. It’s an inspiring read right from when we see his reluctance turn into inclination upon discovering that he’s good at swimming. We follow his progress as he faces each challenge of his swimming ability and endurance, detailing his fear and trepidation along the way to and through that record-breaking swim and its aftermath. 

A Boy in the Water is an uplifting and truly remarkable story of innocence, dedication, and commitment: it’s the story of one dedicated and determined boy and his enterprising coach, and their four-year odyssey towards achieving the ultimate feat in long-distance swimming and breaking a record.
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A poignant, life affirming story of a determined boy, a visionary coach, and how the dream of a record breaking swim became reality.

1984: a young boy was learning to swim, but was not brave enough to take his foot off the bottom of the pool. But only four years later he was swimming the Channel from France to England. John Bullet was his coach, and he took Tom and a lot of other children, on numerous training outings to the sea, outdoor lakes and pools. Every year he took them to the Lake District where they learned to swim long distances in the cold water. Training that would be essential for Tom in his attempt to swim the Chanel.

This touching memoir had me gripped from the start,even though it was a bit of a slow burner to begin with. I don't know if it was because I can't swim and remember school swimming lessons where I did not want to take my feet of the floor of the pool either, that made the connection for me. I cheered Tom on in all he tried to achieve and his struggle with not being terrified on deep water. The relationship and time he was alone with John Bullet (would not be allowed to happen nowadays) for Tom to achieve his dream to be the youngest person to swim the Chanel. I loved this emotional and heartbreaking read. You will need the tissues for the ending. An easy book to read.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Penguin Books Uk, and the author Tom Gregory for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Although naturally inquisitive about other people and especially any outstanding achievements they attain, I often find memoirs and autobiographies disappointing. However, from the outset, this had me gripped. I lived each of Tom's goals and achievements with him, despite being a very late swimmer who is still pretty terrified of deep water. 
The transitions between the two different stages of Tom's life is a very successful way of accounting for his progress and this made for more interesting reading. His references to elements from that time, such as Walkmans and CB radios, gave this even more colour and also served as a constant reminder of his young age and the fact that he was also a normal boy with normal aspirations - and yet he was to achieve something that I can barely even imagine.
The closing chapters are highly emotive and concluded a beautifully emotional journey for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for this copy in return for an honest review.
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