Thursday 9 June 2016

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift


How have I not read anything by Graham Swift before?

(Assuming that is, that the writing abilities he displayed so gloriously in Mothering Sunday are also evident in his previous works.)

This is the best book I've read this year so far. Hands down. No contest.

Every single word was perfectly placed and felt like exactly the right choice for that sentence, that moment, that character.

The first half was beautifully sensual, languid and full of youthful abandon. Yet the shadows of the great war hang heavy.

Swift plays with time, starting the story with "once upon a time" and constantly shifting between now - the perfect day - to reflections of earlier days and big jumps forward into a future made different because of this perfect day. It could be disconcerting, but I found it breathtaking.

The writing has a circular, pacy feel. You're racing through and onwards and going around at the same time. Ideas of sliding doors and possibilities and chance tease you at ever turn. What if? becomes the central theme.

The final section turns more inward looking as our characters discuss the nature of truth and story and memory. We see the power of the mind to carry us away with alternate versions of our stories.

You are left pondering all the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives - all the fictions and possibilities that we run through in our mind that seep into our realities, that inform our decisions and choices even though they are merely figments of our imaginations.

If I hadn't finished this book at 1:30 in the morning, I would have turned it over and started it again straight away.

I cannot remember the last time a book had such a powerful effect on me.

Some readers may not enjoy the rather English class conscious writing style and some may be put off by the slim book/same price as a chunkster thing, but for me this book has been one of the most fulfilling, satisfying, enriching stories I've read in a long time.

A great English writer at the height of his creative powers will always be a joy to behold.

This slim volume packed a punch with every single word in a way that many of the current stock of chunskers fail to maintain for their entire wordy length.

Mothering Sunday also provided plenty of books in book action.

Jane was a reader and many books informed her later opinions and stories - the main ones being Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Youth by Conrad.

A note about the cover.
The Australian hardback edition comes with a stunning slip cover featuring a detail of Modigliani's Reclining Nude (red nude) (1917-18). It seems fitting that this painting that is a homage to sex, should grace the covers of this story. It captures the post-coital mood of the first half of the book perfectly.



  1. I have never heard if him, but it sounds like I have to try him out. He will go on my (very long) to read list. It is always nice to find new writers.

  2. I absolutely loved Last Orders - perfect writing and a whole scene set at the traffic lights at the bottom of the road I was living off at the time!

    1. Ohhhh I love it when that happens - it makes you feel like you're a part of the story almost :-)

  3. Great review.

    The book sounds so good. I can see how the device impending war in the background can be so very effective in a story such as this. The themes that you mention also sound really interesting.

    I would like to read this book.

  4. This sounds brilliant! I haven't read any of his books either - must rectify that...

  5. Anonymous10/6/16

    Now I think this deserves a challenge "Friday Night Fight" !
    You are in a OMG-mood as I am. I fell the same way.
    I cannot remember the last time a book had such a powerful effect on me after reading House of Mirth.
    Now I will READ your book 'Mothering Sunday' and see if it can live up to the "every single word perfectly placed' claim! Great review...full of a reader's passion!

  6. I felt the same way and have yet to figure out how to convey those feelings in a blog post. Perhaps I should just link here! I plan to red Last Orders soon.

    1. I now have Last Orders and Waterland on my TBR JoAnn - I have high hopes :-)

      Good luck with your review - I'd love to hear your take on it.


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