Read On: Graham Swift's Novels

27 February 2012

Last Orders may have won the Booker Prize, but Graham Swift has written a whole host of other novels, each greeted with huge critical acclaim on publication.

 

Wish You Were Here 

On an autumn day in 2006, on the Isle of Wight, Jack Luxton, former Devon farmer and now the proprietor of a seaside caravan park, receives the news that his soldier brother Tom, not seen for years, has been killed in Iraq.

For Jack and his wife Ellie this will have a potentially catastrophic impact. For Jack in particular it means a crucial journey—to receive his brother’s remains, but also into his own most secret, troubling memories and into the land of his and Ellie’s past.

Wish You Were Here is both a gripping account of things that touch and test our human core and a resonant novel about a changing England. Rich with a sense of the intimate and the local, it is also, inescapably, about a wider, afflicted world. Moving towards an almost unbearably tense climax, it allows us to feel the stuff of headlines—the return of a dead soldier from a foreign war—as heart-wrenching personal truth.

‘He gets to the heart of people . . . an extraordinary novel.’ Evening Standard

‘Astonishingly moving’ Sunday Express 

 

Waterland 

Set in the Cambridgeshire Fens, Waterland is a sinuous meditation on the workings of history and a captivating family chronicle. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, it is justly regarded as one of the finest British novels of the 1980s.

‘Perfectly controlled, superbly written. Waterland is original, compelling and
narration of the highest order’ Guardian

‘Graham Swift has mapped his Waterland like a new Wessex. He appropriates the Fens as Moby Dick did whaling or Wuthering Heights the moors. This is a beautiful, serious and intelligent novel, admirably ambitious and original’ Observer

 

The Light of Day 

On a cold but dazzling November morning, George prepares to visit Sarah, a prisoner and the woman he loves. As he goes about the business of the day he relives the catastrophic events of exactly two years ago that have both bound them together and kept them apart.

The Light of Day is a hauntingly tense yet tender story about discovering the hidden forces inside all of us and the power of such discovery to change everything.

‘Deserves to be inhaled greedily in a single sitting’ Independent on Sunday

‘A masterful combination of character and atmosphere’ Observer

 

Ever After 

An academic sits alone in his college room thinking about the people he has lost. Powerful memories crowd in on him—childhood days in Paris; his exuberant, glamorous mother; his mysterious father; and the brash young American who becomes his step-father. Mingled with this emerges a tender portrait of his relationship with his actress wife. Ever After is a poignant elegy to lost faith and lost hope. It is also a powerful affirmation of love.

‘Touching and beguiling . . . Graham Swift has written a deeply felt and rather haunting novel’ Anita Brookner, Spectator

‘A luminous testimony to the power of love.’ Daily Mail 

 

Tomorrow 

On a midsummer’s night, Paula lies awake, Mike, her husband of twenty-five years, asleep beside her, her two teenage children, Nick and Kate, sleeping in nearby rooms. The next day, she knows, will define all their lives.

Tomorrow is a masterful and compassionate novel about the mystery of happiness.

‘Paula talks the way that people actually talk . . . this is part of Swift’s overwhelming honesty as a writer: he writes the way that life goes’ Anne Enright, Guardian

‘A triumph . . . this is Graham Swift at his impressive best’ TLS 

 

Shuttlecock 

Prentis, senior clerk in the ‘dead crimes’ department of police archives, is becoming more and more confused.

Alienated from his wife and children, and obsessed by his father, a wartime hero now the mute inmate of a mental hospital, Prentis feels increasingly unsettled as his enigmatic boss, Mr Quinn, turns his investigation towards him—and his father.

Gradually Prentis suspects that his father’s breakdown and Quinn’s menacing behaviour are connected and the link is to be found in his father’s memoirs, ‘Shuttlecock’ . . .

‘Excellent, profound’ Alan Hollinghurst, London Review of Books

‘A small masterpiece’ Guardian 

 

The Sweet Shop Owner 

In the sweet shop Willy Chapman was free, absolved from all responsibility, and he ran his sweet shop like his life—quietly, steadfastly, devotedly.

It was a bargain struck between Chapman and his beautiful, emotionally injured wife—a bargain based on unexpressed, inexpressible love and on a courageous acceptance of life’s deprivation . . . threatened only by Dorry, their clever, angry, unforgiving daughter. 

‘This beautifully balanced novel describes the arrangements, accommodations, pacts and treaties of our ordinary lives’ The Times

‘Moving . . . Through the succinctly evoked provincial decades one of the engrossing features is the difficulty of love and of communication between generations’
London Review of Books

 

Out of this World 

In 1972, Robert Beech, First World War survivor and present-day armaments maker, is killed by a car bomb. The event breaks the career of his son Harry, a news photographer, and comes close to destroying his granddaughter Sophie.

Ten years later, the Falklands War has begun and both Harry, now working as an aerial photographer, and Sophie, visiting an analyst in New York, are haunted by a past that has scarred and divided them.

‘As tense as a thriller . . . a powerful and exciting book that raises uncomfortable political questions’ The Times

Brilliant clarity and depth’ Mail on Sunday

 

 

Which of these Graham Swift novels have you read? Let us know what you think of them in the comments below!

 

 

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