Shortlisted for the Booker, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
My return to Waterland left me less sanguine and commendatory. The voice throughout is that of soon-to-be- forcibly retired history teacher, Tom Crick and the style almost all the way through is that of an excessively didactic lecturer, telling the mainly woeful tales of his family and forbears as these stretched over several centuries. All the while the teacher is badgering his class with ironic rhetorical questions which, after a few hundred pages begin to annoy.
Don't get me wrong: this novel is very entertaining and presaged the more refined unfolding of family tragedy and entanglements that Swift mastered in "Last Orders" (which did win the Booker). Perhaps like Tom Crick who always says too much, the younger Swift wanted to get it all out in one fell swoop in Waterland. And he sure did that: there is early adolescent sex, murder, incest, suicides, spousal battery, kidnap, arson, a great deal of madness and mental defect, and a vividly described botched abortion. Interspersed are the mysteries associated with land drainage, eel biology, brewing ale and the French Revolution all revealing Swift's fascination with the ultimately unknowable nature of nature, human and otherwise.Read more ›