grist

 

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Waterland it was (4 stars). Graham Swift does a bunch of things right in this: choosing a rich odd world and looking at it from a range of interesting and lovely angles, draws a great range of sharp characters, and handles some awful and violent content with great delicacy. I did find a few moments (in descriptions of the land and water, or the eels, where I had the feeling I had read the same thing earlier in the book ,). One of the best parts of the book was the combination of structure and pacing that takes over in the second half of the book--he draws you into several narratives simultaneously and then skips from one to the next, leaving each hanging, but blunting your potential frustration by casting you into another, equally absorbing story. It is one thing to be drawn into a story and be unable to put it down, and quite another (feat!) to be able to be drawn into 4 or so at the same time (Who is the father? Where is the baby? Will he kill his brother? Is she completely insane? Will they reconcile somehow?)

I picked up Waterland because all of the reviews of The Light of Day referred to it in such glowing terms, so I figured I'd start there and go on to The Light of Day if it was all it was purported to be. It's certainly an excellent book and worthy of its praise--still haven't gone on, however, with another 200+ pages of Titus Groan left, and four other books lingering, I feel a little trapped by the worthy for the lack of the essential--nothing now is pushing itself forward with that urgency that makes it loom up, and other books diminish behind it.



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