Customer Review

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graham Swift - Waterland, 3 Sept. 2008
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Jan 2010 21:30:31 GMT
Eileen Shaw says:
Graham Swift really hit his stride with this - a first novel, I believe. Brilliant. I don't think any of his others really comes close to this one though.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jan 2010 23:14:26 GMT
RachelWalker says:
i agree. well, with limited evidence! i've read the light of day, which was not remotely inspiring. and i've last orders on the shelf, which looks good and is well spoken of, but i can't imagine it touching this.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Feb 2010 19:50:16 GMT
Chris W. says:
Waterland was Swift's third novel. Last Orders is an honest-to-god classic. Shuttlecock and the story collection Learning to Swim are his next best.
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Location: England

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