Monday, 23 May 2011

Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift


DATE READ: May 2011

NOTES: Graham Swift is a very skilful writer. In Wish You Were Here he is terrific at evoking atmosphere – both physical and emotional. He describes the bleakness of an out-of-season seaside caravan park, the strange formality of repatriating the bodies of soldiers and the hard life of a dairy farmer. In particular the grief (bordering on madness) felt by Jack about the loss of his younger brother is powerfully written.

This novel is less successful with the characters. Apart from being not very sympathetic (which may not matter in the long run) some of their actions and attitudes were not wholly believable. There is no real explanation for Tom choosing never to communicate with his brother after he joins the army. Ellie’s refusal to accompany Jack to his brother’s funeral is similarly inexplicable.

Wish You Were Here shifts in time between points of the past and present. Sometimes this could be a bit confusing – especially when he further introduces passages detailing not “what happened” but “what might have happened”.

The ending is tense and I wanted to find out what was going to happen. While this book has many positive points I sadly found it relentlessly depressing and gloomy.

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