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The Light of Day Hardcover – 27 Feb 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; First Edition edition (27 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241142040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241142042
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 960,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Graham Swift was born in 1949 and is the author of nine acclaimed novels, a collection of short stories and Making an Elephant, a book of essays, portraits, poetry and reflections on his life in writing. With Waterland he won the Guardian Fiction Prize, and with Last Orders the Booker Prize. Both novels have since been made into films. Graham Swift's work has appeared in over thirty languages.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Graham Swift's keenly awaited novel, Light of Day, his first since the Booker Prize-winning Last Orders of 1997, is a kind of murder mystery. There is a detective, and there is a death at the heart of the story. Yet the death, as Light of Day begins, is two years in the past; and the detective, the sole narrator of this elusive tale, does no recognisable detecting. Over the course of a single November day, he visits a crematorium to leave flowers on the grave of the victim; later he enters the seclusion in which the person who caused that death lives. The detective is George Webb, once a policeman but now a "disgraced" private investigator with a penchant for cooking (learned, it would seem, from the River Café books). The dead man is Bob Nash, a gynaecologist, the killer his wife Sarah, a language teacher; the inevitable other corner of the triangle, and the catalyst of the two-year-old drama, is Kristina, a Croatian refugee to whom they have kindly offered shelter. The mystery into which George penetrates, speculatively, circumspectly, as he goes about his day, is not about who wielded the weapon--that's clear almost from the start--but why. For, although George's is the witnessing eye, he was merely an observer of the unfolding of the eternal triangle--at first dispassionate, then concerned, then horrified. He is no omniscient narrator: there are actions and motives that will always remain obscure, at least to George. Like life, really.

Swift is an extraordinarily parsimonious novelist: plot and language are spare to the point of dullness; and he sets Light of Day almost entirely in a tightly bound and vividly rendered corner of South-West London encompassing Wimbledon and its environs. Yet the careful repetitions and hesitations, as George gropes his way towards the meaning of the fateful act, mirrored in his slow progress from Wimbledon Broadway across the Common to Putney Vale and its crematorium, give this apparently slight story considerable cumulative power. And at the centre of all the unfolding intricacies, as George turns his thoughts from the past to the future, is the bright, clear hope of freedom and love embodied in the novel's title. --Robin Davidson

Review

'Book for book, Swift is surely one of England's finest novelists' John Banville

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Del I. Janik on 13 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
As he did in 'Waterland,' in 'The Light of Day' Graham Swift breathes new life into a long-established genre. There it was the family saga; here it's the detective novel. 'The Light of Day' has most of the familiar noir elements: the disgraced ex-cop turned private eye, the long-suffering secretary, the beautiful client turned murderess, her unfaithful husband. But Swift transcendes the cliches (while having a little fun with them) and, establishing whodunit early, focuses on the inside of his characters--particularly the private investigator/narrator, George Webb. I went from the final page immediately back to the first, knowing that like Swift's other novels 'The Light of Day' will reward multiple readings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jakob Winnberg on 10 April 2003
Format: Hardcover
Based on his sex previous novels, my judgement would be that Graham Swift is the greatest English novelist of his time. Faced with The Light of Day, however, I cannot help feeling that something has gone wrong. I find myself continually wanting to edit the text. While some phrasings are, as is usual with Swift, minor miracles of language, others are criminally flat. Granted, Swift is giving voice to a man whose field has never been eloquence, and so the awkwardness of the narrator's language is in accordance with the dictates of realism. However, this awkwardness sits uneasily with George Webb's poetic abilities elsewhere. The result is that the novel seems to me aesthetically skewed. A related problem with the novel is that we only get to hear George's voice, his version of events, and to me his side of the story seems to be the least interesting one. If Swift had adopted the polyphonic narration of Last Orders, letting us hear the perspectives of Sarah, her dead husband, his mistress, and perhaps George's daughter, the novel would have been both more immediately gripping and more thematically rewarding. Having said this, I do agree that once I finished the novel I wanted to start over. Perhaps what I have identified as problems with this novel are only parts of a subtlety that pays off with repeated readings. Swift still has that remarkable skill.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 4 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Graham Swift's The Light of Day is a dazzling meditation on love and murder, presented almost as a prose poem with its luscioius repetition of phrases and themes to do with what was and is and might-have-been, secrecy and the effects of meetings and actions, and more. Every word feels like the right one. In all my life of reading, I don't remember ever before turning from the last page of a novel directly to the first to savor the prose again. So many of these phrases lend the ring of truth to much of what the protagonist feels--it is easy to identify with him and feel with him the ups and downs of everything from secret knowledge to feelings of fatherhood and much more. Like all of Swift's books, this one is memorable and to be thoroughly enjoyed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jean-Marc Lantz on 17 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Light of Day" is a very intense novel, as Swift concentrates on the point of view of one man, George, the private eye, whereas in "Last Orders" there were still four major narrators. The author inhabits his character perfectly, and we are told this story in the hesitant, deliberately cliché-ridden voice of an ex-cop as George's day unfolds slowly but inexorably, almost in "real time", towards its close. It is the painful evolution of a self-confessed non-academic, a man of action, once married to a teacher who has now fallen in love with another one, Sarah. Whereas the first marriage broke up because George "failed", i.e. was accused of corruption, this mad, irrational affair seems doomed as well because Sarah is in prison for at least another 8 years. This novel is the account of the second anniversary of the tragedy that brought her there, with George, her ex-private dick her only contact and her only pupil.
Revealing more about the plot would be a sin, suffice to say that the writing is brilliant, even if George's mannerisms grate occasionally and the literary artifice becomes too apparent at times through repetition. Swift creates a thoroughly convincing, very English world revolving in and around Wimbledon and Putney but manages to lend this microcosm universal appeal by referring not only to the past of George's childhood but to that of Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, spending their years of exile in Chislehurst. The historical tangent is slightly reminiscent of "Waterland", even though the scope of "Light of Day" is far more restricted, far less epic.
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Format: Hardcover
Slow-moving but increasingly disturbing novel written in the I-form, about a day in the life of George Webb. Who is an average, fallible man facing his future after 24-years on the Force, mostly as a plain-clothed detective. George always hated teachers but married one, who then became his constant judge. His daughter Helen was long an enemy. When George slips up and is dismissed from the Force (poorly argued by the author), his wife leaves and divorces him. Helen then moves closer to her dad and his cooking hobby.

George becomes a private eye specialized in "matrimonial work", providing proof for clients, mostly women of their partners' affairs. Early on, it is suggested that George has slept with his PA. Later, George admits he has slept with some of his clients. But is he corrupt, as the Force alleged, or even seedy?

One morning, strong sun light is shining through his front room window on the knees of a new lady client, Sarah. George is instantly smitten with her and arranges a second meeting to view photos of his quarries. They are of her husband Robert, a gynecologist and of Kristina, a Croatian refugee they adopted in their home earlier. They have an affair and Kristina has to go. George is hired by Sarah to be her eyes, follow the couple from Katrina's rented Fulham flat to Heathrow and observe and report exactly what happens from start to finish, because there are several possible outcomes... A simple job George could have left to his PA Rita. Or rather, should have...

Graham Swift is an outstanding plotter and puppetmaster to endowing struggling, poor George with the wit to play with the many meanings of common words, even making the weather work for him. Highly sensitive and rueful novel.
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