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Waterland by Graham Swift

Waterland (original 1983; edition 1992)

by Graham Swift

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,666None4,304 (3.98)82
Authors:Graham Swift
Info:Vintage (1992), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Waterland by Graham Swift (1983)

  1. 10
    The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (chrisharpe)
  2. 10
    Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish by James Prosek (ehines)
    ehines: A character in Waterland is fixated by eels: their elusive nature, myths surrounding them, and how the riddle of their origin was finally solved. Waterland is mentioned in the Introduction as one of the inspirations for Prosek's book.
  3. 00
    Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet (tim_halpin)
    tim_halpin: Similar obsession with the connection between History (with a capital H) and ordinary people's lives. Same historical scope. Also, coincidentally, both set in the East of England.
  4. 00
    Ulverton by Adam Thorpe (chrisharpe)

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» See also 82 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I had a very love hate relationship with this book, I heard such great things about it and it just didn't really live up to my expectations. I think my biggest problem was how drawn out it was. I just felt like everything took ten times the amount of reasonable time needed to explain. I think I must have missed something that other people see in this book. It really did have a few very insightful lines in it and the plot line was actually very good, but some of it felt like the author was trying to make a long complicated book out of a fairly short story. There was a lot of history in the beginning which was actually quite hard for me to get through but when it shifted back to the actual story I couldn't put it down. I just wish it had spent more time on the actual story and not made itself lead heavy in detail. The vocabulary used though is great and its beautifully written, just not for me. ( )
  Klp.Krista | Apr 11, 2014 |
With raw bits of esoteric knowledge scattered throughout, and with a fair amount of reflections on the meaning and making of history, as well as teaching, this novel also proves itself as a masterful and complex story worth taking your time over. Wonderful scenes, poetic language, believable characters, and both humor and heartbreak...and, what's more, the novel feels like a step back to another time and has a clear sense of place. Simply, this is absolutely recommended, and it makes me wonder how I never got around to discovering Swift in the past. A wonderful escape and a beautiful read. ( )
1 vote whitewavedarling | May 19, 2013 |
Not my first book by the author, I read Last Orders wile travelling a few years ago, but I had forgotten his roundabout, yet entertaining, way of spinning a yarn.

Set in the Fens, the characters are as much tied to the land, the titular Waterland. Like the water in its springy earth, the Fens seem to move, retract and then burst their banks as the try to get back to their previous untamed state.

The book has 3 threads. The first is that of a history teacher, Crick, being given his marching orders, partly for his unorthodox teaching methods and partly because of an incident in his personal life. In his classes, he tells the students about the other two threads - the history of his family in the Fens and the death of a childhood friend, both of which have contributed to the current state of events.

Price, a clever boy in Crick's class, questions the relevance of history in a world which has a bleak, if any, future. Written in the early '80s, it is a fear that my own generation dismissed with the fall of the Iron Curtain, only for it to have reared its head again in the wake of 9/11 and the current economic crisis.

The impression you get of the Fens is that of a fierce, resistant people. Resistant to those who tried to tame the waters, independent from the world outside until it strategic position and the source of man power were discovered by the powers that be. I suppose you could argue nature versus nurture, but how can you separate the two when both seem to be governed by the Fens? Most of all, though, there is a feeling of guilt that pervades in its pages - for what has happened, whether it could have been prevented. Absent mothers and madness are two other recurring notes.

Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote soffitta1 | May 12, 2013 |
A clever, ambitious, complicated novel, full of allusions to all sorts of things from Faulkner and Buddenbrooks to Moby-Dick and The Mill on the Floss, but also written somewhat in the register of the classic East Anglian crime story (from The Nine Tailors to P.D. James and Ruth Rendell).

I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure if it quite lives up to the scale of Swift’s plan for it. The style is a little bit pedestrian - not dull, but nothing to take your breath away - and the big debate about the puny efforts of human history versus the potent cycles of nature doesn't feel strikingly original. Of course, I'm reading it thirty years too late. In the 1980s, when it was at least plausible to suppose that the world might end shortly, I would have approached it in quite a different frame of mind. ( )
  thorold | May 3, 2013 |
Did not finish.
I was lost at the point where the body showed up. Should have been a gripping moment. But didn't grip me. I gave up. ( )
  Bluerabella | Apr 1, 2013 |
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"And don't forget," my father would say, as if he expected me at any moment to up and leave to seek my fortune in the wide world, "whatever you learn about people, however bad they turn out, each one of them has a heart, and each one of them was once a tiny baby sucking his mother's milk . . . "
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679739793, Paperback)

Set in the bleak Fen Country of East Anglia, and spanning some 240 years in the lives of its haunted narrator and his ancestors, Waterland is a book that takes in eels and incest, ale-making and madness, the heartless sweep of history and a family romance as tormented as any in Greek tragedy.

"Waterland, like the Hardy novels, carries with all else a profound knowledge of a people, a place, and their interweaving.... Swift tells his tale with wonderful contemporary verve and verbal felicity.... A fine and original work."--Los Angeles Times

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:55 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A history teacher besieged by a personal crisis and the "phasing out" of his teaching job abandons his lessons to relate tales of Fenland and his family.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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