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Wish You Were Here (Vintage International) Paperback – January 22, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An extraordinary novel, the work of an artist with profound insight into human nature and the mature talent to deliver it.” —The Washington Post

“Exquisite. . . . Beautifully made…[an] abundance of subtlety, tenderness and fluid prose.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Vivid, emotionally raw . . . Swift is a writer who clearly revels in dialogue and nuance. . . . Thoughtful and sensitive.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Mr. Swift's writing is as strong as ever, recalling the descriptive beauty of his highly acclaimed Waterland and Booker Award-winning Last Orders.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“As every truly great novelist does, in this new book, [Swift] demonstrates that perfect coordination between style and story. . . . [A] honed and driven story. Honestly, I can’t remember when I cared so passionately about how a novel might end.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
 
“Jamesian in sensibility and to some degree in style, [Swift] finds tragedy in the most ordinary conversation. . . . . You forget how piercing this sort of thing can be until you see Swift doing it so well, and with such patience. The depth of field in a Swift novel, thematically and emotionally, is vast. At his best, he suggests that looking intently at the smallest, most mundane thing can yield a glimpse into the meaning of life.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“A rich, stereoscopic portrait of the book’s hero, Jack Luxton. . . . Swift knows that in reality we occupy a wealth of experiences, past and present, mundane and memorable. His strength in this fine novel is showing how all those experiences inescapably collide within us. As he puts it, "the place known as 'away from it all' simply doesn't exist." —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
 
“Heart-wrenching and gripping, Swift’s novel takes one man’s grief and uses it as a prism for the suffering of an entire nation.” —Mail on Sunday
 
“Part ghost story, part whodunit, part tour d’horizon of a nation that seems to have lost faith in tradition and history, it is also a deeply human tale about a man driven to the edge. Praise be for a serious novel that dares to look current affairs in the face.” —The Times (London)
 “One of Swift’s most accomplished works yet. . . . A writerly novel that pushes us deep into the writer’s craft. . . . That Swift should be considered among the ranks of the literary greats is surely no longer in doubt.” —Culture Mob

“Magnificent . . . This is a substantial work, but not a sentence too long . . . Unafraid of emotion, though without a moment of sentimentality, Swift brilliantly conveys the confusion of a man and wife trapped by their unspoken fears.” —Sunday Herald (Scotland)
 
“With unmistakable echoes of Thomas Hardy and E.M. Forster. . . . He exercises a compelling mastery of tone and trajectory. . . . Emotionally gripping.” —The Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Graham Swift lives in London and is the author of eight previous novels: The Sweet-Shop Owner; Shuttlecock, which received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Waterland, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize and won The Guardian Fiction Award, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour; Out of This World; Ever After, which won the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; Last Orders, which was awarded the Booker Prize; The Light of Day; and, most recently, Tomorrow. He is also the author of Learning to Swim, a collection of short stories, and Making an Elephant, a non-fiction book. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307744396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307744395
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book starts with a man sitting in his bedroom, a loaded shotgun by his side, waiting. It cycles back years to tell how he got there. His name is Jack. He's not a very articulate man so you might think he doesn't feel things. It's the beauty of this exceptional novel to show that he does -deeply. That's his burden.

Jack thought he had gotten beyond his traumatic past: the death of his mother, then the years of crushing work on the family dairy farm in Devon, then their herd having to be put down because of the threat of mad cow disease, the death of the family dog, his brother's running away at age 18 to join the army (but really to get away from the farm and his father); his father's suicide by the side of the old oak tree. Ellie's father dies soon after Jack's. Now they can marry, no longer in thrall to demanding fathers. Ellie persuades Jack to sell the farm -she has inherited a caravan (house trailer) park on the Isle of Wight-- and use the money to leave Devon and move to the coast. That's 1998.

For the next eight years, Ellie and Jack run a successful caravan park. Jack's happy and so is Ellie. Jack seems a new man. They even vacation a few weeks every year in far off St. Lucia. Then in 2006 comes a dreadful bit of news. A letter -delivered to the wrong address and now long overdue- finally reaches Jack. He calls to confirm he's received it. "I'm Jack Luxton," he says on the phone and soon he's receiving a visit from sympathetic Major Richards, whose job it is to break the news to the families of dead soldiers. Tom, his baby brother Tom who he'd always hoped would return to him some day, is dead, blown up by an IED in Basra, Iraq.

Inside Jack is the memory of a chain of blows taken but not dealt with. Tom's death cracks open the doors to despair.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Author Swift makes you care about ordinary people. He has the extraordinary gift of submerging you into other peoples' lives where you are trapped almost as though you were under water. And like underwater sounds the emotions of the people you are trapped with are muted, lost in the ocean vastness of the human experience. You care, even agonize, but you cannot escape until the end of the book, and maybe you'll think about the characters after you put the book down. Swift has you hooked.

In a series of vignettes and flashbacks, the intimate lives of the characters is spread before you. This is not a quick read, nor is it an exciting one but it will stay with you. Ordinary things like a shotgun, a Cherokee Jeep, a suit of clothes, a war medal, an old oak tree, become icons for the reader to grasp.

When the novel opens,it is a stormy, rainy November day on the Isle of Wight where Jack Luxton and his wife Ellie run a trailer park. Ellie, her emotions as stormy as the weather, has screamed away in their Jeep, after she and Jack, a result of years of bottled up emotions, have quarreled violently. In their house -Lookout House- Jack awaits the return of his wife, a loaded shotgun beside him on the bed. The crucible of the plot was the death of Jack's much younger brother, Tom, in Iraq. That event triggers a maelstrom of emotions which up until then have been hidden and suppressed in the minds of both Jack and Ellie. They are both emotional time bombs.

The reader is privy to the thoughts of all the characters, so we know what Major Richards is thinking when he calls on the Luxtons to convey the condolences of the Army about Tom's death. We know what Jack is thinking, too.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With With You Were Here, Graham Swift returns to that which he does better than anyone else -- the contemplative novel that probes the innermost secrets of the past and how they affect the present and future. Jack Luxton's transition from running the Devonshire farm his family ran for over 400 years into a proprietor of a caravan holiday site on the Isle of Wight is neither simply explained or treated lightly. Hs inner growth has been shaped mostly by those around him who are now mostly gone. All remaining is his wife, Ellie, who has been with him his entire life.

Swift's extraordinary gift is to portray the inner lives of all the characters in this book, not just Jack and his family, but anyone who remotely comes in contact with the story, giving a full satisfying quality.it I have been reading him for over 20 years now, and know when I sit down with one of his boos, Swift will deliver. He is a patient writer and expects and extracts the same level of attention from his readers. This is definitely not for anyone looking for a quick read, but for someone looking for a book with more meat on its bones. The story is not linear -- but that is not to say it is confusing. The patient reader will be rewarded by paying strict attention to the detail, not be thrown by what appears to be a meandering timeline. By the end, it all comes together in a satisfying whole.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm going to catch it from Swift admirers here, but so be it. I'm truthfully recounting my experience of reading the book. The irony of it is that I AM a great admirer of Swift, especially of Waterland, which yet remains, to my mind, the single greatest Post-WWII single volume work of fiction that England has produced. Swift has become a literary icon in the UK. His works are on every school syllabus. He can be assured that anything he writes will be published and that it will receive head-over-heels glowing reviews - if the reviewers want to retain their jobs. I'm not so sure that this is such a great place for a writer to find himself, and Wish You Were Here bears this out.

Swift has come to specialise in laconic characters in whom deep currents run. He pulls off this sort of thing astoundingly well in a recent novel, The Light of Day, which I would heartily urge to anyone over this book. This particular book's laconic protagonist is Jack Luxton, who comes of age in Devon farmland during the twin catastrophes of Mad Cow Disease and Foot-and-Mouth disease. He marries Ellie, his childhood sweetheart, after both their fathers die - Jack's father shoots himself, leaving a hole in a centuries old oak - to which I'll return. With the money Jack accrues through the selling of the land the Luxtons have held for time immemorial and Ellie's inheritance, they set themselves up as owners of a caravan park - Americans read "trailer" or "RV" park - on the Isle of Wight. Thus, the setting.

In a recent interview in The Guardian, Swift has said that an image came into his head of a man sitting on his bed next to a loaded shotgun and that this book was the result of writing a story explaining how such a situation could come about.
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