Wish You Were Here (Swift) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Causality, in Swift's hands, is buried, unpredictable; it runs through people and events in the odd way a water leak can move through a house, running down walls seemingly far removed from the source. Guns go off in the novel; there are weddings; there are funerals; there are inquests and revelations; hearts break; smoke rises from pyres. But none of these events happen in quite the order, or for the reasons, you would expect. Moving gracefully and without fanfare among multiple points of view, the novel might be said to evoke a collective psychic wound that is expressed variously in various characters, simultaneously drawing people together and driving them irretrievably apart, destroying some lives and saving others according to its own unknowable agency.
Stacey D'Erasmo - New York Times Book Review


Wish You Were Here is an extraordinary novel, the work of an artist with profound insight into human nature and the mature talent to deliver it just the way he wants. The 62-year-old British author has set this unhurried exploration of grief and longing in the English countryside, but it's infected with the violent terrors of contemporary life. As he did with Waterland (1983)—as every truly great novelist does—in this new book, he demonstrates that perfect coordination between style and story. You could no more separate this plot from the way Swift constructs it than you could detach the melody from a symphony.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Vivid, emotionally raw.... Swift is a writer who clearly revels in dialogue and nuance, and in Jack he has crafted a marvelously rich character whose quiet, outwardly closed-off nature belies profound internal turmoil.... Thoughtful and sensitive.
Michael Patrick Brady - Boston Globe


Swift's stunning new novel (after Light of Day) begins with deceptive slowness, detailing the lives of Jack and Ellie, the English husband-and-wife proprietors of a trailer park on the Isle of Wight. Jack and his brother Tom grew up on a dairy farm, but...Jack learns that the burden of repatriating his brother's remains has fallen on his shoulders.... Swift (Last Orders) creates an elegant rawness with language that carries the reader through several layers of Jack's consciousness at once—his lonely past, his uncertain future, and the ways in which his father and his brother both refuse to leave him alone, despite how long they've been gone.
Publishers Weekly


This perfectly titled novel is about longing for the people in our lives who have died. Taking place over just a few days, it focuses on Jack Luxton's journey to retrieve the remains of his brother Tom, a soldier who died in Iraq.... [L]like his Booker Prize-winning Last Orders, it uses a death as a provocation for the examination of self and country. Verdict: Swift has written a slow-moving but powerful novel about the struggle to advance beyond grief and despair and to come to grips with the inevitability of change. Recommended for fans of Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, and Kazuo Ishiguro, authors with a similar method of slowly developing an intense interior narrative. —Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC
Library Journal

A subtly powerful novel.... Brilliantly illuminating the wounded psyches of his characters, circling back to corral the secrets of the past while finding the timeless core within present conflicts, and consummately infusing this gorgeously empathic tale with breath-holding suspense, Swift tests ancient convictions about birthright, nature, love, heroism, war, death, and the covenant of grief. Readers enthralled by Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan will queue up for Swift’s virtuoso novel. —Donna Seamen
Booklist


A novel as contemporary as international terrorism and the war in Iraq and as timeless as mortality, from one of Britain’s literary masters. "The past is past, and the dead are the dead," was the belief of the strong-willed Ellie, whose husband, Jack, a stolid former farmer, is the protagonist of Swift’s ninth and most powerful novel. As anyone will recognize who is familiar with his prize-winning masterworks, such a perspective on the past is in serious need of correction, which this novel provides in a subtly virtuosic and surprisingly suspenseful manner. It’s a sign of Swift’s literary alchemy that he gleans so much emotional and thematic richness from such deceptively common stock.... Profound empathy and understated eloquence mark a novel so artfully nuanced that the last few pages send the reader back to the first few, with fresh understanding.
Kirkus Reviews




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