The Memory Pool

The Memory Pool: Australian stories of summer, sun and swimming by Therese Spruhan, published by NewSouth, 1 November 2021. 

‘I didn’t go to church as a kid but that was my church – that was my sacred space – a pilgrimage to Sandgate swimming pool.’ — Trent Dalton in The Memory Pool. 

Smell the chlorine, taste the hot chips and feel the burning concrete underfoot as you read these stories of Australian childhoods at the pool.

Swimming is a central part of most Australian childhoods. We idealise beaches and surf, but for many kids the local pool – whether it’s an ocean, tidal or a chlorinated pool – is where they pass summer days. Pools are places of imagination, daring, belonging, freedom, friendship and romance. For some they are places of hard-core swimming training.

This delightful, nostalgic anthology brings together reflections and recollections about the swimming pools of childhood from a range of Australians of diverse ages and backgrounds, well known and not-so-famous, including Trent Dalton, Leah Purcell, Shane Gould, Bryan Brown and Merrick Watts.

Evocative, funny and sometimes bittersweet, 28 people remember the pools that shaped their childhoods. Everyone who has ever dived into their local Olympic pool, bush waterhole or saltwater baths will want to submerge themselves in this beautiful book.

What the critics say about The Memory Pool

 ‘A joyful, moving, nostalgic and original take at what it means to be Australian. Dive in!’ — Robert Drewe

‘Crisscrossing the nation, spanning generations and histories, these stories celebrate the joy and freedom of being a body in water. Read it while beside your favourite beach or pool, or read it and be transported there.’ — Bernadette Brennan

‘These immersive stories remind us that the swimming pool is not just the place we first learn to sink or swim. It’s a space of respite and renewal, playtime and pilgrimage, limerence and liminality, community and connection. Dive in – go on – I double dare you.’ — Sian Prior

A selection of media reviews

Take a plunge in the memories of Australia’s swimming pools, Penelope Rossiter, The Conversation, 25 December 2021. 

‘Fans of outdoor swimming, in both wild places and public pools, will enjoy The Memory Pool. But there is also something here for non-swimming readers interested in the small stories of ordinary people, about community, migration, class, family, making a life, and how we have and might live together in multicultural Australia.’ Penelope Rossiter, Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Social Analysis, Western Sydney University, The Conversation, 25 December 2019

Water, water everywhere, Phillip Siggins, Weekend Australian, 16 November 2021. 

‘In constructing this anthology Therese Spruhan interviewed a wide range of people she knew who had a close connection with a childhood pool, for whom the pool represented much more than simply a place to cool off in summer. Once the interview was transcribed Spruhan wrote each per- son’s story. The result is 28 stories “celebrating the pool from Australians aged from 28 to 97 from all over the country, and from a range of aquatic settings — chlorine, sea, bay, river and backyard”.’

Love affair with pools makes for summer’s best seller, Splash magazine, Feb-March 2020.

Memories of swimming at the local pool on Life Matters Program on ABC Radio National. 

Read Bryan Brown’s chapter in The Memory Pool.

Read about Therese Spruhan’s inspiration for The Memory Pool.

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