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Waterland Paperback – Apr 20 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (April 20 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679309373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679309376
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.9 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #103,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The aspect of this novel that I found most intriguing was Crick's fascination with history. He is plagued, as we all are, by the omnipresent question "Why?", and the novel is the story of his quest for the eternal answer. He views the persent as the ultimate indefineable dimension of time; the time when we as humans are the most vulnerable and unable to make heads from tails. He comes to the conclusion that we must look to the past to determine not only the future, but the "Here and Now" as well. Driven by an infinity of "Why?"s that haunt his daily life, Crick becomes a school teacher; a history teacher. He strives to show the students how history, no matter how distant it seems to the individual, is somehow linked to everyone, and how no piece of history is more important or monumental than another. Through the narration of his own personal experiences as well as the lives of his ancestors, Crick reveals the beauty and power of history to his students. He reaches them in a way that textbooks never dreamed of. Perhaps it is redemption he seeks in teaching his pupils to draw wisdom and foresight from the past. While Crick opens the gates of history for his eager students, he comes to terms with his own past.
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Format: Paperback
I read Waterland almost two decades ago when it first appeared and was nominated for the Booker Prize. Since then I maintained a memory of it as a masterpiece and commended to it scores of friends. I came back and re-read it after recently discovering (and reviewing elsewhere on Amazon.com) W.G. Sebald's "Rings of Saturn" I was inspired by the coincidence that both novels are set in the same water-logged landscape of East Anglia (England) and both are centrally concerned with the way that history (and divergent versions of history) as well as the geography affect the interwoven course of lives, famous and not.
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.
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Format: Paperback
A reader must have patience and perseverance while reading Graham Swift's remarkable novel "Waterland." Like some of the better authors in British literature, Mr. Swift weaves theme upon theme with great virtuosity and skill; the reader must follow the turns and detours of the expansive plot while dealing with an unusual handling of time. The extraordinary tale is narrated by Tom Crick, a rambling storyteller and ex-history teacher from England's Fen Country. He is the son of a canal lock keeper, and the story he tells - although frequently convoluted, digressive, and rambling - is one of the most fascinating stories I have ever read. Right before he is forced to retire in the 1980's, Tom abandons the history curriculum of the school at which he teaches and relates instead a three-hundred page saga of the Fen Country involving murder, incest, madness, ghosts, revenge, and two centuries of pain and tragedy. He incorporates this remarkable history with references to the French Revolution and to his own painful story of growing up during World War II, becoming involved with a bizarre murder and with a witless half-brother who was conceived in order to become "Saviour of the World." It is a disquieting and painful novel, a work of Gothic proportions in which the reader must maintain the utmost concentration. But the rewards are great. I simply could not get this novel out of my mind while I was reading it. I quickly became enthralled with Tom Crick's touching story, with his striking historical account of his ancestors, and with his marvelously graphic description of the Fen Country and its austerity and often tragic hardships. In fact the Fen Country is a major character in the novel for it acts upon the characters in extraordinary ways.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
History is more than the mere retelling of facts and occurrences. History is about people. It is about raw feelings and experiences, emotions and reactions. History defines the human cycle of events, that is the constant re-invention of ideas, ideals and results. It matters not whether we have learned from the past, for we are constantly doomed to repeat its consequences anyway. After reading "Waterland," I am inclined to believe that author Graham Swift agrees with this notion. The novel, which vibrantly paints the portrait of an emotionally tortured family's history, deals head-on with the subject of history. Swift immediately questions the legitimacy of history. The mere title, "Waterland," is a contradiction in itself that begs questioning. The title suggests the murky, unstable format which the novel follows. Swift divides the novel into 52 separate chapters, each seemingly unrelated to each other on the surface, but eventually drawn to a common understanding by the intermingling of history's events in different time periods. Immediately, Swift establishes the struggle to make sense of history (the battle of understanding between fairy tale and reality) and exposes the absurdity of the repetitious human cycle. Indeed, this is a novel that wastes no time finding the earthy core of its inner-meaning (the organic fundamentals of "natural" history, i.e. "accidental" happenings caused by nature). Fittingly, the tale is told from the perspective of an aging, soon-to-be dispatched London history teacher lecturing his students for the final time. For Tom Crick, the story deals with the "end" of history, both literally and figuratively.Read more ›
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