I've finished Graham Swift's latest novel, Wish You Were Here, and it was all that I've missed in the years that I've not read any of his work. Big aches, long-held sadness, hoped-for-solutions that never come. He is a writer who understands the nature of the human soul and reveals our own nature to us patiently, without fanfare, so that his ability to know each of us is not an ah-ha moment mid-novel but a slowly building sense -- and relief -- that our deepest sadnesses and greatest unspoken fears are fully known.
I didn't find myself marking every other sentence for its brilliance or even noting story structure while reading (something I often over-analyze mid-read which makes for a mess of expectations and let downsthat are entirely of my own making). I was simply in the story. In the pain of it. In the character's own lack of awareness and then awareness. In each family member's fumbling attempt to control their own destiny, to claim it in some way, to mark it as something not-inevitable.
It's been a week or so and it has hung around me like a cloak. Swift has a way of illuminating profound loss so exquisitely that it seeps into me and takes hold of me. I've had a hard time shaking it off.
Stacey D'Erasmo at NYT captures Swift's ability well in her review:
"He has what might be described as an old-fashioned humanist sensibility; the unearthing of buried emotion, and the consequences of that unearthing, is his métier. Jamesian in sensibility and to some degree in style, he finds tragedy in the most ordinary conversation, redemption in the way one character offers another an umbrella. 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."
This is a beautiful book. One of Swift's best. Would love to know if you've read it and what you thought.