Waterland-Graham Swift   Leave a comment

This is another novel from the ‘1001 books to read before you die’ list. I discovered it was based in the Fens, and intrigued, as I live on the edge of that area, felt I would give it a go.

I had just finished another book by Graham Swift, ‘Mothering Sunday’, and enjoyed it very much, so was very much looking forward to this locally based book, about an area which has always fascinated me. The Fens had been previously a literal ‘Waterland’, completely flooded with just small scattered island of higher land. The area had been draining over 200 years ago, and the entire area was thus transformed.

The story is interspersed with this history of the draining of the Fens, which I particularly enjoyed. The book was written in 1983 and was listen for the Booker prize, and has been used as a set text in school. It is regarded as a great post war novel.

The narrative is fragmented as a result of this history being recounted, which accords the book the genre Postmodern.

The narrator, Tom Crick, is a history teacher, and the novel consists of his scattered memories of his childhood, his elder mentally challenged brother and his first girlfriend. These memories are not chronological, and there is obviously a tragedy to be unveiled from the past. Juxtaposed against these, are the details of his present job and the problems he is facing there too.

The novel has a theme of history, but it is approached from many angles, even a postmodern attitude of moving beyond history and that it is irrelevant now. It also covers family in its many guises, when the Fenland itself standing as a major character in the novel. There is a sense of mysticism and magic to the Fens in this book. A silent landscape which has seen all manner of things, yet keeps silent and goes on.

A film has been made of the novel, but inevitably they had to move Tom to be an American Professor.

I enjoyed the book, but postmodernism is not my favourite genre. I would say I enjoyed the novel despite the style, not because of it.

 

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