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Distinctly disappointing by this writer's standards
on 24 July 2013
I will concur that "Tomorrow", while typical of Graham Swift's themes, is far from being the novelist at his best, as in the masterpiece "Waterland", for example.
Swift's most general theme is the past : the influence the past has on the present, the way decisions or events from the past are sometimes misunderstood, even deliberately misrepresented, and the way such misunderstandings or misrepresentations may also influence present situations, particularly within families.
Part of the failure of "Tomorrow" is quite simple to pinpoint, I feel: the narrator, Paula, lying awake at night, is going over in her mind the revelations to be made, by herself and her husband, Mike, to their teenaged twins the following day. But, of course, Paula is speaking simultaneously to both her twins (who, of course, have already known their mother for sixteen years) and the reader, who gets to know her and everything about her through the text. And it's perhaps difficult to speak to a reader and to one's own children in the same way.
The major revelation to be made to the kids, as many reviewers pointed out, is not exactly earth-shattering. The novel's shortcoming is that the reader focuses on the nature of the revelation, and then, once it has been made, realises that not much else has been said - and consequently feels rather cheated.
What saves the novel from being really banal, however, is that there are in fact two revelations, which are closely linked - and Paula's husband is party, so far, to only one of them. That being the case, will both revelations be made to the children? If so, Mike is in for a shock as well as the kids. If not, then how reliable a narrator is Paula in the first place?
I have Graham Swift's most recent novel, "Wish You Were Here", to look forward to. I'm sincerely hoping it's a bit more adventurous, and meatier, than "Tomorrow", which has to be considered a relative failure by a writer who, at his very best ("Waterland" again), is undoubtedly one of Britain's finest contemporary writers.