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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't get bogged down
Graham Swift's study of life and history in the fens of South Eastern England is not what I'd call an easy read; the story opens with a History teacher and former lock-keeper's son, Tom, telling of how he saw a local boy drowned in the river some thirty years ago. Flash-forward to the present day and Tom's post is being gradually eroded - as is his marriage due to his...
Published on 19 May 2009 by Captain Pugwash

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting start but seemed to me to lose momentum half ...
Interesting start but seemed to me to lose momentum half way through. What was he trying to tell me the reader and as for the explanation re eels well it nearly finished me but I did get to the end. The incest story seemed very contrived and added nothing to the narrative
Published 5 months ago by Cynthia Mary Keigwin


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Didn't get bogged down, 19 May 2009
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
Graham Swift's study of life and history in the fens of South Eastern England is not what I'd call an easy read; the story opens with a History teacher and former lock-keeper's son, Tom, telling of how he saw a local boy drowned in the river some thirty years ago. Flash-forward to the present day and Tom's post is being gradually eroded - as is his marriage due to his wife's issues with her inability to have children - so he decides to forget the syllabus he is supposed to teach and teach from his own experiences growing up in the fens...
Swift's themes are the nature of history, provincial life, and adolescent love; he never pulls his punches and consequently the novel needs to be perservered with at times. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Swift's most acclaimed novel didn't win, however it remains a powerful and moving story and one that should be read.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fenland Epic, 30 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
Seldom have I read anything as powerful as 'Waterland'. The sense of place is as strong as anything in Wordsworth, Lawrence or Hardy. During the reading of this novel, your imagination becomes eaten-up with the frighteningly flat landscape of the Fens, with its canals and dykes and eals and, most frightening of all, its people. The story is at once epic, huge, and yet insular and particular. As Tom Crick leads us through the sometimes bizarre, occasionally horrific, history of his family, we see his generation become the most bizarre, the most horrific yet. His family history culminates in the end of history his pupils so dread.
'Waterland' attacks some of the biggest issues of late twentieth century life: the first world war, the change in culture since the second world war, the threat of the third world war, loss of identity, loss of meaning, anarchy, incest, family, love.
This was the first work I had read by the author, and since reading most of the others, by far his best in my opinion.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex and thrilling, 1 July 2008
By 
Jonathan Birch (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
When all is said and done, Waterland is a cracking yarn of murder and bonking against a fenland backdrop. But what's special about this macabre literary thriller is the way the story is told. The narrator (a history teacher, Tom Crick, who is also the key protagonist) interleaves the central narrative (set in 1943) with scenes from his troubled present (1983), evocative detours into the eventful history of his family, and philosophical musings on the uses of history. The strange chapters in this final category are reminiscent of Tolstoy's essay-chapters in War and Peace; and, like Tolstoy, Swift somehow gets away with it. In fact, the sinuous structure of the novel only adds to the suspense: just as you think you're approaching a revelation, the narrator goes off on a new tangent. It works brilliantly, because the novel's central mystery (what exactly happened in 1943?) puts a voltage across the entire book, sucking you onwards towards the end.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graham Swift - Waterland, 3 Sep 2008
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
I've read so many great books of late that I'm constantly surprised that each one betters the next! After reading Richard Yates' superb Revolutionary Road, I knew that was a hard act to follow, but Waterland not only followed it well, but bettered it. It is certainly one of the best British novels that I've ever read, a masterpiece of original narration. It is, of course, the narrative that is the absolute crowning achievement of this: Swift tell's various stories here, all mappped over one another, in varying chapters and interlocking in various ways: we have the contemporary story of Tom Crick, a history teacher being forced into early retirement, who narrates the book in a series of "lectures" to his final class. Then we have the story of Crick's childhood in the Fens, his life with his family and friends and tales of growing up, which include murder, young love and suicide. Crick also narrates to his students the wider story of the Crick family, his ancestors and how they came to their place in the Fens. He sets all of this against the wider backdrop of events in history such as the French Revolution, and the the geographical history of the Fen landscape, and how humans have shaped it over various stages in time. Put like that, it sounds dry, but it really isn't at all. Every strand of it is fascinating, and very lively to read. Swift's style, in Crick's narration, is a masterpiece of wordsmithing, playful, intelligent, witty, pyrotechnic in a subtle, fun way.

It's a seriously excellent book, Waterland. An examination of one man's life and ancestral history, an exploration into the purposes and philosophies inherent in the studying and uses of history itself, and a thrilling mystery. There's more than one mysterious death, here. There are ghosts, incest, elemental raging in the form of floods and fires, kidnapping, and much tragedy. Crick is a fab protagonist, and it's sometimes surprising that the warmest sections of the book are the chapters of his interactions with his classroom of children. I can't recommend this multi-layered, superbly told story highly enough. It's a great literary achievement, and keeps its mysteries to the final page. Exciting, thrilling language, and muchly thought-provoking as to the concept of "history". Buy it soon. Buy it now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, entertaining and thoughtful, 4 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
Waterland is an engaging and thoughtful novel which has a nice balance of ideas-led and action/character-led elements within its structure. It is an elegaic look back at the passing of time and the significance of childhood and early adulthood, woven around a story which relates to the past as much as to the present. Having said that, it is never over-florid or over-clever, but has nice clean lines running through the writing style.
I am very impressed by the quality of the writing and the control that Swift shows over the different elements of plot and characterisation, which never faltered or allowed my interest to slip away. Some elements of the style did irritate slightly - the narrator's voice seemed in places a little over-stylised (even if this does suit the narrator's character), but overall this stylisation does actually add texture to the novel, even if in places it leaped out at me.
I have never read anything by Graham Swift before, but certainly intend to after reading this. A definite recommendation!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Re-writing the Fens, 26 July 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
Swift paints a landscape that breathes history and and also critiques its validity. The Fens are brought to life before us in a moving and impressive manner. Although at first it took me a while to engage with the characters, I soon became engrossed in the narrative and couldn't put the book down! Anyone that has ever driven or taken a train through the dreary, isolated Fens will appreciate this novel: anyone who hasn't will want to visit this unique land and see it for themselves. A truly great read and worth your time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 30 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
I first read Waterland over ten years ago and liked it.

I recently saw that it had been re-issued as a special edition after 25 years and I did what I rarely do, I re-read a novel. I was not disappointed.

It has the "Graham Swift style" of moving backwards and forwards in time (primarily the years before and after WW1, the last days of WW2 and its aftermath, and the present day).

I suppose that the influence of history is an important thread, both world events and personal local history. The Fens, that strange area around the Wash, is well portrayed and is an essential element of the book.

Wearing my anorak I might quibble with a few minor points that should not have slipped through, but overall I would give Waterland top ratings and there can't be too many better novels from the last quarter of the last century.

(The novel has been filmed, with Jeremy Irons. Although the present day scenes have been moved from Greenwich to Pittsburgh this does not really detract from the film, which makes a fairly good job of a novel that does not easily lend itself to filming).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and Thought Provoking, 27 Aug 2008
By 
Yorkshire Lad (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
This is a wonderful book on many levels. Swift creates a magical Fenland world as atmospheric as the marshes in Dickens' Great Expectations. He also writes a gripping story spread over several generations, with his characters operating within the context of major historical events. The key character - Tom Crick - is a history teacher and this conveniently allows Swift also to explore the very nature of history itself. A compelling read. This book should have earned Swift the Booker prize (but he got it later for 'Last Orders' anyway).
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my top 10 books of all time, 24 May 2007
By 
Edwin O'Sullivan "edwin" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
Similar to my fellow reviewer, Waterland has sat on my shelves unread for years. Sometimes coming close to being the final selection as I ritually choose my next book. Well, finally, I decided to read it and now, as I am about 15 pages from the end, I almost cannot bear to finish it - I do not want to let it go. It is truly inspiring. It's atmosphere envelops you and goes with you, it invades your waking mind. I will say no more except that, if you are reading this review then click buy now and don't wait for years to read it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and Beautifully written, 10 April 2007
This review is from: Waterland (Paperback)
This is a special novel, special because it has sat on my bookshelves as they moved around the country from London to Leeds, Leeds to Sheffield, Sheffield to York always unread, always passed over since 1984. Special because after 22 years of running my finger across the spine, passing it by to select other novels, its turn eventually came; it was worth the wait.

The sense of place and history created by Swift is stunning; I was there in the wide flat landscape with the slow moving broad rivers and sluices, the home of the Eel. The detail was required to position the backdrop to understand the fragility of the existence in this remote and ancient part of the England. Although the landscape is flat, the layered stories add the extra dimension; provide the depth.

I liked the way the novel pulled back and forth from past to present, and set a base around which the stories swirled and added power to them.

The unanswered questions remained too many though; I did wonder what the need for the child abduction was; it played a small part in the novel and I remain unconvinced in added much. But by looking beyond the story of Tom's first love it added other avenues, other streams for the novel and kept you guessing to the end where it would all end up.
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