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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To love is to be ready to lose, it's not to have, to keep."
Initially resembling an old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective story, this novel by Graham Swift becomes, as the perspective widens, an investigation of love, man's need for love, and the sacrifices we are all willing to make for love. Private detective George Webb allows the reader to "tag along" during one day of his life in 1997, talking to his readers about aspects of...
Published on 3 Feb. 2005 by Mary Whipple

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fate Rules, OK?
For some reason, a number of reviewers use the term "hard boiled" in their description of this deeply psychological novel. Presumably this is because the protagonist is an ex-policeman who was kicked off the force for "corruption" and is now doing seedy "matrimonial" detective work. And other familiar "hard boiled" types on hand as well: the efficient secretary who pines...
Published on 18 Jun. 2004 by A. Ross


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fate Rules, OK?, 18 Jun. 2004
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
For some reason, a number of reviewers use the term "hard boiled" in their description of this deeply psychological novel. Presumably this is because the protagonist is an ex-policeman who was kicked off the force for "corruption" and is now doing seedy "matrimonial" detective work. And other familiar "hard boiled" types on hand as well: the efficient secretary who pines for the PI, the femme fatale client, a cheating husband, and the PI's long-gone ex-wife. While these are certainly well-established hard-boiled types, Swift is much more interested in noir than hard-boiled. Now "noir" is itself a very tricksy word in film and litcrit circles, with many and varied meanings. However, noir's main recurring theme is that of fate, and fate is what Swift is really interested in investigating in this novel. Another of noir's key themes is the individual's inability to escape the past, and this too, plays a major role.
The story takes place over the course of a day in the head of middle-aged George Webb, the aforementioned ex-cop turned private investigator. His interior monologue takes quite a while to get used to, lurching around in fits and starts, back and forth in time, with little glimpses here and there. This is a canny writing job of capturing the fractured nature of thought, which is rarely so kind as to adhere to complete direct syntaxóbut it also makes for jarring reading. The style only really works because it's a special day for Webb: the anniversary of the day a client killed her husband. Not just any client, but the client he's become completely obsessed with and visits every two weeks in jail.
Over the course of this emotionally distressing day, Webb's thoughts gradually reveal not only the story of his client's crime, but the story of his dismissal from the police, as well as his childhood, and his relationship with his daughter. Swift is careful to release only micrograms of information at a time, so that the complete portrait of Webb's life accumulates in fragments, like a pointillist painting gradually coming alive as the dots mount up. But for all this coyness, there's no real suspense in the narrative, events proceed along an inevitable track dictated by fate. It's heavily suggested early on that Webb was unjustly dismissed from the police, and it turns out he was. Webb's career in "matrimonial " detective work turns out to be linked to his childhood. Webb's obsession with his murderess client is based on... well... nothing really, it just inexplicably exists (as in a film noir). Ditto with any explanation for the client's crimeóit's just what fate had in store, and that's all there is to it. Ultimately, all of this is rather unsatisfying, if stylistically well-written. I've long wanted to read one of Swift's books, but this doesn't seem to be a good one to start with.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To love is to be ready to lose, it's not to have, to keep.", 3 Feb. 2005
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
Initially resembling an old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective story, this novel by Graham Swift becomes, as the perspective widens, an investigation of love, man's need for love, and the sacrifices we are all willing to make for love. Private detective George Webb allows the reader to "tag along" during one day of his life in 1997, talking to his readers about aspects of his life as they impinge randomly on his consciousness. Description is not a big part of George's life, and it takes the reader some time to understand all his references in this lengthy interior monologue. We don't know, at first, why Nov. 20 is a significant date to him or where he goes every other Thursday, nor do we know about his personal relationships with the women introduced at the beginning, or the reason he's buying flowers, or why he's had a woman's handbag in his possession for two years.
As George's recollections, memories, and observations expand, however, we gradually come to know him and his past, including his relationship with his father, his own broken marriage and the circumstances surrounding it, his alienated daughter, his womanizing, the scandal which has resulted in his leaving the police force, and his decision to specialize in "matrimonial work." We learn, too, that George's client, Mrs. Nash, is now in jail, the reasons for this unfolding even more gradually, as we come to know her, her husband Bob, and the privileged life they've led. Always, however, our opinions of these characters and their relationships are colored by George's point of view, and we, as objective observers, learn as much about them from what George does not say as we do by what he does say.
All of George's memories are concerned with the vulnerability of people who are in love, as Swift raises questions about whether we choose the people we love, or whether we are chosen by them. Does love just happen? What makes it last? What happens to lovers who are "unchosen"? And can we love too much? Although a mystery story is not usually the framework for such a serious, philosophical analysis of love in all its permutations, Swift manages to make this work through his beautifully wrought character study of George, buffeted every which way by the loves in his life. In the lean, unemphatic prose style he first employed in Last Orders, Graham Swift presents a sensitive investigation of love with all its mysteries and ineffable sadness. Mary Whipple
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very beautifully written: perhaps too beautifully written?, 13 Jan. 2005
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This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
None of Graham Swift's books are negligible, and his latest is as masterly and as meticulously constructed as ever. "The Light of Day" concerns the unlikely love which has developed between murderess Sarah Nash (serving a life sentence for dispatching her unfaithful husband with a kitchen knife) and her private detective. The Private Eye in question, George Webb, is an archetypal Swiftian creation - a middle-aged man with a failed marriage and a failed police career behind him, his dogged, world-weary idealism is reminiscent of the likes of Tom Crick in "Waterland". As he slowly tells us how he comes to be carrying a torch for Sarah while she languishes in prison, George becomes an unlikely poet and a character of real stature.
The book turns the conventions of the Crime genre on their head: the motive for Bob Nash's murder, and the circumstances of the crime, are essentially clear from very early in the novel. The real mystery is the developing relationship between Sarah and George, and just how George has arrived at the unlikely position in which he finds himself. As he muses over and tries to make sense of his past life, George's motivations slowly become clear to the reader.
Swift gives George a compelling voice: the recurrence and repetition of telling little phrases - "What else is civilisation for?"; "If [whatever] isn't an unfortunate word"; "The points on our map"; "Matrimonial Work" - build a rhythm into his narrative that has a big cumulative effect.
So, why only four stars? Well, while this is undoubtedly a beautifully written and often a moving book, I left it feeling just a little short-changed. Maybe it's just too beautifully written for its violent subject matter: I missed the rawness and suppressed rage found in some of his earlier novels, particularly "Waterland" which remains (for me anyway) the best thing he has done. George is perhaps just too nice a guy to make a really involving central character. Also, "The Light of Day" is inevitably a rather static book, with the narrative ruminating over a single violent act which is already well in the past at the novel's opening. In many ways, the novel makes a virtue of this stasis - it is very much about patience; keeping faith; standing watch... For me, though, this isn't quite Swift at his faultless best. All the same, it undoubtedly remains a fine novel and an undeniably good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the light of day, 18 July 2007
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
I was drawn to Graham Swift's The Light of Day on the shelf because its cover was emblazoned with 'Winner of the Booker Prize'. I knew that his novel Last Orders had won the Booker in 1996 - and won it amid some controversy, because of noted similarities between it and Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. But I hadn't realised he had won The Booker for The Light of Day as well.

He hadn't - the ploy was a faintly disingenuous one by Penguin relating to Swift's previous Booker win - they could have added 'for Last Orders' to clarify. Nevertheless, the opening pages of The Light of Day are branded with eulogies from various publications. I had enjoyed both Last Orders and Waterland, and I knew that Swift had also won several other awards (The Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for Shuttlecock in 1981 and again for Waterland in '83, the latter also having won a Guardian Fiction Prize.) So the indicators were that Light of Day, Swift's six novel of seven, published in 2003, would be worth perusal.
It is indeed a powerful book. It has several similarities with Waterland, most notably the meandering style which flits from past to present, gradually sketching historical events in the lives of different characters which finally coalesce into a whole picture. Like Waterland, many of the characters are damaged - hurt from life's blows, irreperably scarred, yet still reticently, shyly open to new experiences. As with Swift's first novel, the 1980 The Sweet Shop Owner, and other contemporary novels such as Ian McEwan's Saturday, present tense events in the book span a single day. Unlike McEwan's novel, though, the reader's comprehension of what has happened in the past is not complete until near the end of the story, when past events have been replayed at an almost agonisingly slow but always compelling pace.

It is 1997. The narrator is George Webb, ex policeman who left the force in a cloud of disgrace eight years previously. With the loss of his profession, his life fell apart - his school teacher wife walked out and he almost sank. But gradually he lifted himself through the murk and, with the love of his previously distant daughter Helen behind him, reinvented himself as a private investigator.
This is where the story starts - George in his office, about to set off on a day that is not routine, an anniversary of an event in which he was involved and embroiled. A day which sees him run the whole gamut of emotions from tenderness and love to hatred, black, seething jealousy, despair and hope.
The strength of this book lies in George's narration. His voice is genuine and credible, both in its ability to relate a gripping story in the voice of an ordinary, ineloquent man, and in provoking sympathy and feeling for a man who is in many ways unremarkable. Swift shows through his characters the complexities of life: how humans often love those who don't objectively deserve their dedication; how ordinary people can transcend tragedy and show unerring loyalty; how rebuffed romantic love can sour so quickly into violent hatred followed by an eternity of regret. It is a tender, engrossing story in which the simple language shrouds greater depths of humanity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, 15 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
I completely agree with the reviewer A. Ross who describes the book very succinctly. Swift's style was clever but totally unreadable. There was so much repetition too that - I found myself skipping over bits all the time. I had no empathy for any of the characters and at the end I thought - well so what? It was really not much of a story and a waste of my time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enigmatic and teasing, 1 Feb. 2010
By 
hiljean (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
This is the third Graham Swift novel I have read (the first two being The Sweet Shop Owner and Last Orders) and again I am left feeling that, much as I admire him as a writer, there is something missing from his books and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what that is.

The "action" takes place in a single day in 1997 with the narrator, PI George Webb, looking back to events two years ago (whose anniversary he is marking on this day), to the break-up of his marriage, and to his childhood, all of which obviously contribute to making him the person he now is. The writing style is quite difficult as it composed of short sentences, or more often simply phrases. Added to that is the problem of the way the story lurches backwards and forwards between previous events and the present time. What is clever, however, is the way Swift releases details through his narrator a little at a time, unfolding the story and leaving us guessing all the while. This is done in an entirely natural way, after all these are the thoughts of George Webb, so they occur somewhat randomly and without any prior explanation.

For most of the book I enjoyed this feeling of anticipation and gradual discovery, but towards the end I realised there was no great mystery; the final chapters are rather an anti-climax and I was left wondering exactly why this "hard-boiled" ex-cop should have become so completely obsessed with Sarah.

Based on this book alone I doubt I would read another Graham Swift novel, however I will give him one more try - I have yet to read Waterland which seems to be the most highly rated of all his novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 23 Oct. 2006
By 
A. Rose (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
I was so disappointed with this book. The cover talks of previously having won the Booker Prize and has rave reviews but I found the story quite confusing at the beginning and once I had sorted in my mind who and what was being talked about, I realised that by then that was the whole story -there was nothing more to it. There was a lot of un-necessary description and self examination but quite frankly nothing very gripping. I'm just pleased that this book was passed to me and I didn't waste full price on it.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good one, but not all that great, 23 Mar. 2004
By 
Markus Isch "mege1" (Schweiz) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Light of Day (Paperback)
I enjoyed Light of Day for the same things that I think Last Orders is a masterpiece. Once again, Swift can bring characters to life with his precise descriptions. In this novel, however, he uses it to veer from crucial questions that occur at crucial moments. Why has Sarah killed her husband? I do not think the text answers this question in full. On the other hand, there are such laboured excursions about his father's unfaithfulness and the odd episode of the park bench. And the Rita story is something that leaves a lot to be answered for. Not wholly satisfying, this one.
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The Light of Day by Graham Swift (Paperback - 4 May 2006)
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