Light of Dayby Graham Swift
On the anniversary of a life-shattering event, George Webb, a former policeman turned private detective, revisits the catastrophes of his past and reaffirms the extraordinary direction of his future. Two years before, an assignment to follow a strayed husband and his mistress appeared simple enough, but this routine job left George a transformed… See more details below
On the anniversary of a life-shattering event, George Webb, a former policeman turned private detective, revisits the catastrophes of his past and reaffirms the extraordinary direction of his future. Two years before, an assignment to follow a strayed husband and his mistress appeared simple enough, but this routine job left George a transformed man.
Suspenseful, moving, and hailed by critics as a detective story unlike any other, The Light of Day is a gripping tale of murder and redemption, as well as a bold exploration of love and self-discovery. This powerful novel signals yet another groundbreaking achievement from Graham Swift, the author of the Booker Prize-winning novel Last Orders.
—Winnipeg Free Press
“Graham swift is a writer’s writer. He believes deeply in the transformative power of his art, which he plainly relishes. His books are exhilarating and daring, but not daredevil. He likes the bizarre and the improbable. He likes calamity…Swift excels at suspense, and The Light of Day, fated and claustrophobic, reads as if it were written by a British Ross MacDonald…The bleak helplessness of the protagonists is comfortless and disturbing, their love unredemptive and burdensome. This effect is brilliantly drawn.”
—(Ottawa) Citizen’s Weekly
“The Light of Day… possesses a … stark and exacting structure. … [A] classic noir plot. … [C]alls to mind all sorts of correspondingly gritty love stories, from Hammett and Chandler to Double Indemnity, but Swift is more concerned with plumbing the conventions of the form to explore the murky territories of a moral life: the choices and chances one has, the deals we make and the paybacks we take, the responsibility we have to care for one another. … There are moments of understated metaphorical brilliance. … The Light of Day is a tough-guy novel with its heart buried in the twilight. … [M]ysterious and sometimes seductive. …”
—The Hamilton Spectator
“ [Swift] is a wonderfully original writer and his new work lives up to his reputation as one of England’s finest living novelists…an intriguing, even mystifying story of the power of passion, murder and redemption”
“…an intriguing story of the power of passion, murder and redemption.”
“The novel feels both fastidiously and feverishly shaped. George’s path through the day is mapped with such precision that we could trail him…. Though written in short, declarative sentences, there’s a musicality to Swift’s language…. intelligent, hypnotic…”
—The Globe & Mail
“…comparison with The End of the Affair makes the other Graham look hysterical beside Swift's absolute evenness of execution…In this case, though, low key doesn't mean low risk. In its chosen sober manner, The Light of Day offers a master class in narrative.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“The story draws the reader on like the best whodunit — or, whydunnit. Yet it is also a profoundly artful, beautifully weighted, resonant and humane literary novel. The geographical scope of its action may be no wider than the distance from Wimbledon to Chislehurst, but it reaches out towards Croatia, Magenta, Solferino, Sedan. The timescale may be no longer than a day, but it reaches back — and forward — for years.”
“In The Light of Day, Booker Prize-winner Graham Swift writes in a style so deceptively simple that its emotional punch takes your breath away.”
“It’s a beautifully constructed book, which flows, musically, around its central themes. Ideas circulate and resurface like refrains, the pace is gentle but brilliantly sustained, its association of ideas intricate but achieved with a magically delicate touch. It’s almost short-story like, so concentrated is the form, and, as a novel, deserves to be inhaled, greedily, in a single sitting, all the better to appreciate the complex patterning of its structure.”
—The Independent (UK)
“Swift has the ability to cast a spell over a story, magically illuminating the small details of human interaction and the outside world.”
—Sunday Express (UK)
"A brilliantly constructed novel: rarely has suspense been better sustained."
—The Independent Magazine
"Indisputably one of our finest novelists. This is a book so shot through with pent-up emotion that it practically trembles in your hands."
"Swift is a virtuoso of narrative ventriloquism; he inhabits his characters through their voices. Ideas create little rhymes with each other (and) Swift manages this patterning of motifs with exquisite economy."
—New York Times Book Review
"Not only the work of a novelist at the peak of his powers, but also his most engaging work to date."
—HQ Magazine (Australia)
"A vision of the human that is almost religious in its capacity to forgive, building slowly but inexorably towards one final moment of weightlessness, as moving as any other Swift has written."
—The Age (Australia)
Praise for Last Orders:
“Graham Swift is a purely wonderful writer, and Last Orders, full of gravity and affection and stylistic brilliance, proves it precisely.”
“An amazing novel . . . A truly virtuoso performance . . . A metaphor of the journey we all take.”
“This is Graham Swift’s finest work to date: beautifully written, gentle, funny, truthful, touching and profound.”
“A profound, intricately stratified novel full of life, love lost and love enduring.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Resonant, distinct, irresistible . . . both convincing and extraordinarily intimate.”
—Washington Post Book World
Read an Excerpt
“Something’s come over you.” That’s what Rita said, over two years ago now, and now she knows it wasn’t just a thing of the moment.
Something happens. We cross a line, we open a door we never knew was there. It might never have happened, we might never have known. Most of life, maybe, is only time served.
Morning traffic in Wimbledon Broadway. Exhausts steaming. I turn the key in the street door, my own breath coming in clouds.
“Something’s come over you, George.”
But she knew even before I did. She’s not in this job for nothing, she can pick up a scent. And soon she’s going to leave me, any day now, I can tell. I can pick up a scent as well.
She’s here before me of course. When isn’t she? She doesn’t sleep these days, she says. “These days” have lasted years. Always awake with the dawn, so why not? Always something to be done. And I pitch up after her. Boss’s privilege. Though it’s not yet half-past eight, and last night I was out on a job till gone two. And today’s a special day.
As I reach the top of the stairs I hear the click and hiss of an already warm kettle being switched on. The computer in her little compartment (we call it the “reception area” but “area” ’s a generous word) is already up and running. It feels like she might have been here all night.
“Cold,” she says, with a shiver at the air I’ve brought in and a little nod to the outside world.
“But beautiful,” I say.
She’ll have been here before the sun hit the streets.
“Coffee or tea?” she says, ignoring mysmile -- and that word -- as if insisting I’ll have had a rough start.
But I don’t have a sleep problem, not now. Though maybe I should. I grab it when I can, catnap, get by on little. An old trick of the trade. And Rita’s sleep problem, if she’s honest about it (and sometimes she is) isn’t really a sleep problem either.
“An empty bed, George, that’s all it is. If there was someone there . . .”
“Tea, I think, Reet. Nice and strong.”
She’s wearing the pale pink top, soft wool, above a charcoal skirt. Round her neck a simple silver chain. The small twinkly stud earrings, a waft of scent. She always gets herself up well, Rita. We have to meet the public, after all.
But the pale pink is like a flag, her favourite colour. A very pale pink -- more like white with a blush. I’ve seen her wearing it many times. I’ve seen her wearing a fluffy bathrobe of the same soft pink colour, loosely tied, tits nuzzling inside. Bringing in morning tea.
I go into my office, leaving the door open. The sun is streaming through my first-floor window, the low, blinding sun of a cold November morning, the sun Rita never gets in her compartment, except through the frosted glass of my door.
She follows me in with the tea, and a mug for her- self, a bundle under her arm. There’s always this morn- ing conference -- my office door open -- even as I settle myself in, take off my coat, switch on my own computer, sit down. The sun’s warm through the glass, even if outside the air’s icy.
She puts down my tea, already sipping her own, eyeing me over the rim. She slips the bundle onto my desk, pulls round the other chair -- the “client’s chair.” She steps through bars of bright light.
It’s like a marriage really. We’ve both thought it. It’s better than a lot of marriages (we know this). Rita -- my assistant, my associate, my partner, or not-quite partner. Her job description has never exactly been set in stone. But I wouldn’t dream of calling her my receptionist (though she is that too) or even my secretary.
“Be an angel, Reet.”
“I am an angel, George.”
Where would I be without her?
But she’s going to leave me, I can tell. One morning like this one: she won’t bring in a mug of her own and she won’t put down the bundle of files, she’ll keep it hugged tight to her, a shield, and she won’t sit down. She’ll say “George” in a way that will make me have to look up, and after a bit I’ll have to say, “Sit down, Rita, for God’s sake,” and she’ll sit facing me like a client.
“It’s been good knowing you, George. It’s been good working with you, but . . .”
She knows what day it is. A Thursday, and Thursdays are special, but she knows the date, the day of the year. November twentieth. Two years -- if you count it from that day. Two years and it hasn’t stopped. And if it hasn’t stopped, it will go on for the years to come, however many they’ll be. The time’s gone when she could say (as she did once), “How can you, George -- with her?” Or when she could say, to herself: He must be mad, he must be off his head, but he’ll come round, it’ll stop, give it time. He’ll come slinking back. And meanwhile what better guarantee, what better safeguard, really -- that woman being where she is?
I think she’s come to accept it -- even to respect it. A fact, a feature. Mr. Webb is always “on an assignment” every alternate Thursday afternoon. I’ve even seen this look of sweet sad understanding in her eyes. That’s why I think she’s going to quit.
“Those are for Mrs. Lucas -- this afternoon. Five forty-five. Earliest she can do.” A quick glance. “You’ll be back?”
We both know what’s in the envelope. Photographs. Photographs of a man and a woman in a hotel room. A little blurred but clear enough for recognition, at six-by- nine enlargement. “Surveillance equipment” is reliable these days. We have to get the film processed specially -- a private contract -- and Rita collects. A man and a woman doing things with each other. But this sort of stuff hardly raises an eyebrow or even gets that much of a look from Rita and me. It sits there, like the morning mail, between us.
Our stock-in-trade. Can you see who’s who? That’s the vital thing.
“Yes, I’ll be back by five-thirty.”
“And I’ll just say” -- she doesn’t push the point too much -- “you’ll be out of the office till then?”
“But I won’t leave before ten. I can take calls till then.”
“It’s a beautiful day out there,” I say again. “Cold, but beautiful.”
Another sideways look, more lingering this time. She might be saying, You poor bloody idiot.
The eyes are tired, made up immaculately, but tired. The sunlight streaming in is like a warm bath, but it isn’t kind to the lines round her eyes. It catches a wisp of steam rising from her mug and puts a sparkle in her hair. She moves a bit closer to point out something. A silver bracelet at the end of the pink sleeve.
A long time now, since the last time. I’d asked her round to try some of my cooking (Rita may be an angel, but she’s a hopeless cook). I might even have spelt it out to her: a meal, that was all. But that’s the trouble with good cooking (if I say it myself). Not to mention red wine. It warms the heart, the cockles, as well as the stomach. Melts the resistance.
“Things on your mind, Reet?” The considerate boss.
“Not exactly, George. You?” She’d cupped her wineglass in both hands -- her nails wine-red too. “It’s just not having anyone there. You know. Somebody by your side.”
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