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Waterland Paperback – March 31, 1992
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"Perfectly controlled, superbly written -- Waterland is original, compelling and narration of the highest order." -- The Guardian (U.K.)
"Swift spins a tale of empire-building, land reclamation, brewers and sluice-minders, bewhiskered Victorian patriarchs, insane and visionary relicts.... I can't remember when I read a book of such strange, insidious, unsettling power with a more startling cast of characters." -- Books and Bookmen (U.K.)
"Teems with energy, fertility, violence, madness -- demonstrates the irrepressible, wide-ranging talent of this young British writer." -- Washington Post Book World
"A formidably intelligent book -- animated by an impressive, angry pity at what human creatures are capable of doing to one another in the name of love and need.... The most powerful novel I have read for some time." -- The New York Review of Books
"Waterland appropriates the Fens as Moby Dick did whaling or Wuthering Heights the moors -- a beautiful, serious, and intelligent novel, admirably ambitious and original." -- The Observer (U.K.)
"Rich, ingenious, inspired." -- The New York Times
From the Inside Flap
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
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Comments on the cover of the paperback edition compare Swift to Melville and Hardy. Both comparisons are just, although Swift's style is his own. Certainly his willingness to suspend the story for long accounts of the draining of the fens, or the rise of the brewing industry, or the breeding habits of the European Eel must owe something to MOBY DICK; I can't claim that all his discursions feed back into the story (relatively simple as it is), but they do give great richness to its context. And Swift is like Hardy in his extraordinary ability to root his writing in a detailed and intimate sense of place -- in this case at the opposite side of England, in the bleak marshlands won with difficulty from the sea. This has personal relevance for me, as my own ancestors were among those who came over to England from Holland in the 17th century to help drain the fens. What I know of the area today fits exactly with what Swift describes, but his details of banks and backwaters and feel for the spirit of living year-round amid such expanses reveal a writer who has the fenland in the marrow of his bones.
There are secrets that emerge from all this excavation, but few surprises. Swift has a way of touching on something, leaving it, and returning much later by a different route. As a result, almost everything that happens has a tragic inevitability. It is here that Tom's preoccupation with history and Swift's feeling for the fenland come full circle. Tides ebb and flow; reclaimed land is lost to silt and water and painfully regained once more; history is a slow cycle that turns continually around the same old mistakes. Swift may take a pessimistic view, but no more than, say, Ian McEwan, whom he resembles in many of his themes (cf. THE CHILD IN TIME) and in the resilient life he gives to his characters. So it is not all tragedy. Even Tom Crick, who understands the long view better than anybody, goes into retirement with his head held high.
Most recent customer reviews
I grew up near this area and many times when reading this book, i was transported back to my childhood.Read more