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Shuttlecock [Paperback]

Graham Swift
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: £6.99
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Book Description

12 Nov 1999

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

‘An astonishing study of forms of guilt, laced with a thread of detection, and puckering now and then into outrageous humour’ Sunday Times

‘A superbly written claustrophobic account of power that corrupts private and public life and of guilt that becomes obsession’ Daily Telegraph

‘Swift’s central strength as a writer is his integrity. Story and character are treated with a seriousness and respect that while allowing for the oddity of human behaviour – Shuttlecock is thoroughly and beautifully odd – always honours them’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Serious, moving and often very funny indeed’ Observer

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Product details

  • Paperback: 9999 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (12 Nov 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330353713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330353717
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 920,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

From the Publisher

Intense psychological thriller from 1996 Booker Prize winner
Intense psychological thriller by Graham Swift, winner of the 1996 Booker Prize, from his backlist, brilliantly rejacketed by Picador in 1997. An unnerving study of power and inadequacy; and the manipulations of family and work life. "One of his generation's finest, with an imagination of rare immediacy and vitality" The Times; "A born storyteller" Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Graham Swift was born in 1949 and is the author of nine acclaimed novels and a collection of short stories. With Waterland he won the Guardian Fiction Prize (1983), and with Last Orders the Booker Prize (1996); both novels have since been made into films. His most recent novel is Wish You Were Here. Graham Swift’s work has appeared in over thirty languages.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very, very weird! 28 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This book is a compelling psychological thriller, but a superb profile of the fragile mental state of its protagonist, Prentis, as he struggles to keep up with the responsibilities of his job and reconcile these with his home life. An interesting look at how easy it can be to lose one's sense of self in a modern culture whose moral and social values are constantly changing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny study of knowledge and power 12 April 2007
By Huck Flynn VINE VOICE
Swift is a very good writer, easy to read but deceptively intelligent, stylistically not unlike Graham Greene. The "Dead Crimes" department in which Prentis works is a metaphor for our subconscious memories or our guilty conscience, in which we hide all kind of truths away or make use of secrets to wield power or make judgements. Prentis undergoes a crisis of confidence during this book and abuses his power to become a tyrant in his own household. This may be due to his upbringing (eg the death of his hamster was kept a secret by his parents) and his dysfunctional relationship with his father, a former spy and war hero, to whom he feels inferior. As Prentis suspects and investigates possible corruption in his Dept he becomes increasingly paranoid. His attempt to get close to his father, now speechless and resident in a care home, causes friction between his son and himself in a comical parallel of his own youth. His insecurity and need to justify himself and live up to his father's reputation reach a climax when it is revealed that his father may have been traitor. At this critical point the book steps back from the abyss and resolves itself through Prentis's boss who reveals a secret that helps Prentis "escape" from his torturous spiral into insanity. I felt it was a bit of an anti-climax but the marvellous portrait of the delusional Prentis is very entertaining and the book has some profound insights and realistic character motivation. A convincing voice and an enjoyable tale with some very funny moments.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A lesser novel in the cannon 20 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is, to my mind, the weakest of Graham Swift's novels. Following his strikingly accomplished debut, The Sweet Shop Owner, this book promises much but suffers from trying to satisfy too many roles. On the one hand, it's a cramped, paranoid thriller set in a mysterious record office; on another, it's a meditation on identity and the relationship between fathers and sons. The difficulty comes in reconciling the two and, in this, Swift is only partially successful. Perhaps it would be churlish to criticise an author in his thirties embarking on his second novel for his inability to fuse two vastly different forms, but Shuttlecock is a victim of its creator's ambition. Swift would go on to write many better book-including the subsequent Waterland-but it would take him almost a quarter century to successfully use a work of ostensible genre fiction to convey a deeper meaning in The Light Of Day.

Any one wanting to investigate Shuttlecock will find a well-written book with a convincing main character which struggles to meet its intriguing premise. It probably suffers a little from having come out between two of the finest books of the late twentieth century but the likelihood is that, had Shuttlecock not been written by an author of Graham Swift's standing,it would be forgotten today.

Etienne Hanratty: Don't Carp, Marley Tiffin
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me 1 Jan 2014
By Bridgey
A bit of a strange one this. The novel is essentially made up of two different tales that sort of converge at the end. Set when the book was written (80's) it follows the life of Prentis.

Prentis is a married father of two boys, he works as an office bound investigator of past crimes. The story is written in the first person allowing us to learn his disturbed thought and reasoning behind the treatment of his family. Prentis comes across as extremely unlikable and paranoid. He is convinced that an ongoing investigation he is being asked to look into, involves him and his father and as he digs deeper and deeper (at the expense of his deteriorating home life) the more paranoid he becomes. Disillusioned with his lot in life he tries to force respect from his children and wife but only succeeds in alienating himself further.

The second tale relates to his father who is currently in a nursing home, and not been able to speak for number of months due to a mental trauma. When a young man he was employed as a secret agent during the war and known under the code name 'Shuttlecock', captured as a prisoner of war he later recounts his experiences in a published autobiography. Prentis becomes fascinated with this book and tries to find the answer for his fathers condition within the pages, reading and rereading them.

I don't know why, and it's not something I can easily pinpoint but I just did not enjoy the novel, often as a reader I myself felt left out of plot (in particular following the case where suspects were only referred to as letters). I found the narrative too disjointed and struggled to maintain interest. I can see why other readers have awarded the book 5 stars and I am sure that it has a lot more to offer than I was able to take from it. But, to be honest, it captivated me so little that I just couldn't be bothered trying to find it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two and Fro 27 May 2012
This is an odd book that begins conventionally enough but soon becomes two stories. The main one, set in the present (early 1980s), is about Prentis - husband, father, and senior clerk in a police department dealing with the archives of 'dead crimes'. The second story is extracts from his 'dead' father's Second World War memoirs ('Shuttlecock')and these two stories are batted two and fro, in a psychological drama, where Prentis tries to sort out his ambivalent relationship with his dad (now confined to a nursing home) and also his own family. It is a serious novel that has many moments that are both funny and poignant.
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