Vintage, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD
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Reviewed by Michael Graves
takes place in a single night as Paula, a mother of twins, lies in bed beside her sleeping husband sleeplessly reminiscing over the past fifty years. Swift is very skilled in the female voice as Paula leads us to the unveiling of a family secret. A slow disclosure follows and if anything the secret is somewhat anti-climatic. However, the secret does involve a thought provoking open-ended issue that is well handled in all its complexities.
sing repetition and sometimes extreme thoughts the author puts the reader, like Paula, in a semi-conscious dreamlike state. This is very effective as one quickly and seamlessly develops a strong rapport with the storyteller. The time frames often shift in the novel and the author does an excellent job of establishing time and place, from the sexual liberation of the sixties to the teenage angst of the nineties.
wift has a wonderful style full of wit, clever nuances and an impressive use of similes and metaphors. The characters are a delight and, oh yes, there is Otis, a cat who is held responsible for the birth of the twins.
is a very enjoyable book that provides everything one would expect from a great read.
2nd Review by Rheta Van Winkle (Rating: 2)
by Graham Swift is a story told entirely by a woman. Paula Hook, wife and mother, lies awake in the middle of the night worrying about her family. This is a realistic premise for a story: mothers have been losing sleep mulling over family problems since time began. What is surprising is how right the author, a man, gets the concerns running through this mother's thoughts.
aula is happily married and while she lies awake, her husband of almost twenty-five years, Mike, is sound asleep beside her in their bed. Her twin children, Nick and Kate, who celebrated their sixteenth birthday a week before, are asleep in their rooms. As the story develops, we learn about the birth families of Paula and Mike and their marital history. There is a mystery about the children which is going to be revealed to them the next day, and this is the worry about
that has Paula lying awake.
he more we learn about this family, the less reason there seems to be for Paula's worries. What could possibly be wrong that causes her to be afraid to leave after the revelation (to go away with her husband for a weekend to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary)? True, there were problems in Paula's own family. She isn't speaking to her mother, and her father, now deceased, was married two more times after his divorce from her mother. On the other hand, Mike's parents seem to have had just as loving a family as Paula appears to have now. Both Paula and Mike are only children, and the twins could be said to be only children, too, having been conceived and born at the same time.
he writing is low key, but interesting. We want to find out what's wrong in this picture perfect family. We learn all sorts of secrets, some rather shocking, and maybe the ultimate secret that causes Paula's insomnia isn't such a surprise at the end. If so, that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of this book.
is beautifully written and we are pulled along with Paula from one event to another, forgetting at times that she is just thinking about things rather than telling her children anything. I enjoyed the book very much and I think most mothers would also like it. One of the biggest surprises turns out to be how well the author, a man, understands the sorts of things that mothers worry about.
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