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The Feminist Book Club Back with Freya Bromley, Author of 'The Tidal Year'

Image courtesy of The Feminist Book Club

Against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset on the rooftop of AllBright Mayfair — a club for women, run by women — on the 18th of April, the Feminist Book Club welcomed Freya Bromley, author of The Tidal Year, which was shortlisted for the Nero Book Awards 2023. The evening — with its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere — included heartfelt conversations about navigating loss, grief, and female friendships between Freya and Joelle, the book’s editor, Rebecca, co-founder of the book club, and the club’s members. 

A memoir of Freya’s struggle with the loss of her brother, in its essence, the book is about the healing power of swimming. Soon after her loss, Freya and her friend decided to swim in every tidal pool in the UK. As someone who lost touch with swimming some years ago, it was heartening to hear Freya talk about swimming in such a loving manner, which made me want to immediately jump in a pool again!

Freya describes swimming as having courage – it’s about the cold water, and putting down your phone. She says, “It’s silly and a shortcut to childhood. You don’t have to actually swim, just sit and waddle your foot, move your body around and have silly fun”. The book club members agreed with this, and joined Freya in talking about the “silly fun” of being in water.

Image courtesy of The Feminist Book Club

When answering questions about her brother, Freya opened up about how difficult it was to navigate this loss. She found it strange for her colleagues to talk about it, and they were scared to ask ‘How are you?’. She also discovered how isolating grief can be, and she clung to friends who had lost siblings too. On processing grief, she says, “It’s un-processable; you keep doing something that keeps you well, but it doesn’t get better”. Freya found nature helpful in taking a lot of complex feelings away from her. 

Part of the book is about female friendships, and how we tend to neglect platonic romance – receiving letters and flowers from female friends can mean so much as well. At the same time, she did frankly say that love cannot constantly exist – “We don’t love each other all the time”. Sometimes we have fights, agitations, and no communication – if you love someone, you need to tell them that. Complexity in relationships is ever-present. Essentially, you don’t fight, unless you love. 

Freya talked about writing a memoir and publishing a book which includes stories about family. There is the book, and on the other hand, there is the unedited reality: “You had to go and live that”. There were important conversations she had to have with her close and extended family; she had to get their consent in writing. Joelle pitched the dangers on the ‘business side’ – family can sue for wrongful representation in memoirs. With a copy of the book always being somewhere in the world, always there in print, you have to take extreme caution. 

Writing a book about grief also changed how Freya thinks about the body. The cold water seemed like a warm hug, and the water held her in her loss. Inside a pool, there is no chance of overthinking or communication. When emotions are all over the place, water is a connection; something which isn’t pain. In this way, Freya found swimming to be a great way to channel her anger. 

More than this, swimming also provides safe spaces. Freya talks about tidal pools specifically in terms of history and preservation, as many are where generations of people learned how to swim from their grandparents or elders. In certain places in the UK, people have fought with the council, raised money through golf courses, and more, to preserve these tidal pools. The landscape’s connection to water is like a connection to their families through the generations; it is precious, invaluable. 

Through swimming, Freya met many new people. She realised that you can discover yourself via the people in your life – your friendships and relationships determine who you are; you change as a person when you meet someone. In fact, she finds that the highlight of promoting her book is meeting people and connecting with them. The experience of meeting other people is quite spiritual – the fact that she is grieving from the loss of her brother is out there; everyone knows, even if they are not talking about it. This connects the readers and Freya on another level – knowing without speaking.  

On her writing process, Freya says it is quite poetic, and involves a lot of record-keeping and noticing. There is incredible detail, and this is possible due to her picture-taking, diary-keeping, and lots of note-taking. The weather in the book reflects a lot of her emotional state, in typical British fashion! Furthermore, the year Freya lost her brother was the most important for her grieving – she found that intense human experiences heighten our sense of reality. By putting herself in the centre of both swimming and her life, she found herself on the pages. Water formed a canvas for her to paint her story.

The book club members were deeply involved in the Q&A, asking many thoughtful questions. After the discussions — and after Freya hinted at what she’s working on next — Freya signed copies of her book, and the club took a group picture (of course!). Clearly, the Feminist Book Club plays an important role in providing spaces like this in London – not only for people to discuss literature, but also to make new connections, meet authors in real life, and potentially be moved to start writing themselves.

After an evening of funny, easy-going, yet sincere conversations, in the book club’s friendly and inclusive space, I left feeling inspired – maybe even inspired enough to dip my toes in water once again, and swim.

Image courtesy of The Feminist Book Club

The Feminist Book Club's next event is with Krystle Zara Appiah at Harper Collins, about her - tickets available here.

Tickets for June's book club, discussing The Bell Jar, are available here for North London and here for South London.

Follow The Feminist Book Club on Instagram to stay up to date with their events: @thefeministbookclubcic




Edited by Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor


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