Tomorrow

( 3 )

Overview

On a midsummer's night Paula Hook lies awake; Mike, her husband of twenty-five years, asleep beside her; her teenage twins, Nick and Kate, sleeping in nearby rooms. The next day, she knows, will redefine all of their lives.

Recalling the years before and after her children were born, Paula begins a story that is both a glowing celebration of love possessed and a moving acknowledgment of the secrets on which our very identities rest. Brilliantly distilling half a century into one...

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Overview

On a midsummer's night Paula Hook lies awake; Mike, her husband of twenty-five years, asleep beside her; her teenage twins, Nick and Kate, sleeping in nearby rooms. The next day, she knows, will redefine all of their lives.

Recalling the years before and after her children were born, Paula begins a story that is both a glowing celebration of love possessed and a moving acknowledgment of the secrets on which our very identities rest. Brilliantly distilling half a century into one suspenseful night, Tomorrow is an eloquent meditation on the mystery of happiness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A writer of great range, vigor and acuity. . . . Evokes perfectly the circularities of a sleepless night.”
The New York Times Book Review

“An honest, sometimes funny, sometimes snort-aloud-true, tale of a woman's love for her family.”
The Hartford Courant

“The circular way Paula unwinds her story-less chronologically than thematically-told with the warmth of a woman talking to her adored children, is captivating.”
Portland Oregonian

"Swift's]talent shines through in his smooth prose and keen eye for detail.... Tomorrow provides a revealing look at one family's secrets and how they impact many lives, despite one's best efforts to manipulate the outcome."
Rocky Mountain News

Publishers Weekly

This splendid novel by Booker Prize-winner Smith (for Last Orders) has its roots in the 1960s sexual awakening and takes place over the course of a sleepless night in June 1995. Paula Campbell Hook lies awake beside her sleeping husband, Mike, and worries about the shocking revelation that she and Mike will make to their 16-year-old twins tomorrow. Paula recalls her meeting with Mike at university in 1966, when sex was free and easy ("a glut of it"), the immediate consummation of their sexual passion, their marriage and successful careers, and the birth of the twins after almost a decade together. Mainly, Swift explores the ways in which secrets are created to ensure happiness, and the potential for emotional damage when the truth is revealed. Swift has channeled the tenderness in Paula's voice with uncanny exactitude, granting her a mother's sentimental observations about pregnancy and raising children. He drops a few clever red herrings, so the narrative retains the vibrato of suspense until the secret is revealed. But the novel's remaining pages, which convey the exaggerated "doomsday" fears of middle-of-the night wakefulness, seem padded. In essence, this moving exploration of marriage and parenthood is a ringing affirmation of modern life. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Paula Hook and her husband, Mike, have been together for 25 years, after meeting as college students in 1966. Over that time they have prospered, Mike as the publisher of Living World Books, Paula as director of an upscale art gallery. Now Mike is about to turn 50, and Paula lies in bed thinking of the bombshell revelation that he intends to drop on his children in the morning. Surely they have wondered why their parents are so much older than their friends' parents. Paula's interior monolog fills the entire novel; Mike, the children, and the various relatives are all seen exclusively through her eyes. As a result, the characters don't have much substance. We never see the real Mike at all, only Paula's image of him. A second problem is that Mike's big revelation doesn't seem very earthshaking. While Swift would probably argue that the point is to show that Paula's fears are exaggerated, Paula's insistence that something momentous is about to occur guarantees that the reader will feel shortchanged. Libraries that own Swift's Waterland(1983) or Last Orders(1996) can skip this one. For public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/1/07.]
—Edward B. St. John

Kirkus Reviews
A marvelous character study with minimal plot. One of Britain's foremost novelists, Swift (Light of Day, 2003, etc.) displays his profound empathy in a novel that never leaves the mind of its first-person narrator Paula Hook. It all transpires over a few hours on a June night in 1995 and is told as something of a bedtime story by Paula to her sleeping twin children, Kate and Nick. Tomorrow, she explains, their father will reveal something momentous that will change all of their lives. The timing is significant, because the revelation will occur the week after the twins' 16th birthday and the week before the Hooks' 25th anniversary. Though she keeps talking about tomorrow, most of the narrative takes place after midnight, so it's actually today when the family dynamic will be threatened. And though she addresses her story to her sleeping children, she is plainly talking to herself, revealing intimacies about her own life and her relationship with her husband that no mother would likely inflict on her children. Now a successful art dealer, she explains how she met her husband, biologist Mike Hook, how the two met and fell so rapturously in love, but waited nine years after marrying before having children. What she doesn't explain until well past the novel's midpoint is what Mike could possibly reveal that could undermine the love that the two plainly feel for each other and share with their children. If there's a weakness to the novel, it's that the suspense that Swift takes such pains to sustain makes the climax feel a little anticlimactic. Yet Paula Hook is a character of such heart, soul and intelligence that the reader forgives her foreboding repetition of "tomorrow." No novelist isbetter than Swift at celebrating, as Paula explains, "how sweet and treasurable even the most unambitious moments of life can be."A richly satisfying novel of blood ties, the interplay of nature and nurture and the secrets that even the closest families keep from each other. First printing of 50,000
The Barnes & Noble Review
Graham Swift opens this novel with an epigram from one of John Donne's most powerful poems, "The Good-Morrow":
I wonder by my troth, what thou and I Did, til we loved? Were we not wean'd til then?
The poem, in which love makes "one little room an everywhere," is the perfectly in-gazing anthem for Paula and Mike Hook, married 25 years and still having self-admittedly great sex; a pair that spawned another pair, twins Nick and Kate, who have just turned 16. But lying awake on a rainy June night in 1995, her husband slumbering beside her, Paula has little reason to hope her morrow will be good. She and Mike have kept a secret from their children that, by agreement, they will reveal in the morning. The secret -- what it is, how it came to be, how it will irrevocably change this happy middle-class family -- makes up the 250 pages of this sometimes trenchant, sometimes turgid novel. It is to Swift's great credit that even such a slender, self-absorbed story can still yield so much: not directly, through the revelation or working out of its overhyped secret, but through its narrator's unexamined ambivalence about the very family she seeks to protect.

Tomorrow, Mike will do the talking, but tonight, mentally addressing her sleeping children in the next room, it is Paula's turn. She begins at the beginning, when she and Mike met in Brighton in the freewheeling 1960s. Mike slept with Paula's two flatmates before he slept with her, and then never again slept with anyone else. The two drank champagne, fell in love, married. Paula became an increasingly successful art dealer. Mike struggled in research (on snails) before taking over as editor of the popular-science magazine The Living World and turning it into a publishing success. They moved from one dull suburb of London to a tonier one. They got a cat. Eventually, after seven years, they conceived Nick and Kate. Paula confesses one of the biggest tragedies of her youth was wanting to play Puck in her school production of A Midsummer's Night Dream and being cast instead as Mustardseed. The events of her life have been small and unremarkable, except for the secret she's carried these past 16 years, which tomorrow, she reminds us ominously (and repeatedly), will change everything.

Much of Swift's subtle drama arises out of shiftings of place and class that may be hard for American readers to track. The University of Sussex attended by Mike and Paula was new and progressive in the late 60s, a hotbed of radicalism and experimentation. Now they live in Putney, a leafy suburb with solid schools. Definitely not lost in translation is Paula's sense of baby-boomer competitiveness and rationalization, which starts out innocently enough but over the course of the book, as the secret gradually unfolds, becomes more pointed. It's easy to joke about Mike having tried out her two roommates before her, but in Paula's need to make it fit her narrative, she uses it as a sort of empirical proof that their love was not incidental, that it, like their children, was meant to be. Randomness is deeply terrifying to Paula, and she finds meaning in constant balancing and calculating. She and Mike were born in the same "important" year -- 1945 -- and are the same age except for the seven months that Mike " laps her" and she does her annual "catching up": "Sixteen is like eighteen was, sixteen years ago." She tells her kids that "you yourselves were the work of painstaking calculation" and "One has to count so many things in life. Days, hours, minutes...Calories, pounds, blood pressure, heart rate. Days since your last period....No, I've counted lots of things, but I never thought I'd become so keenly involved in counting sperm."

Yes, the big secret -- so obvious from the beginning that I'm spoiling nothing here -- is that Nick and Kate were conceived by artificial means. Their father is not "really" their father, which even by 1995 standards couldn't have been much of a bombshell. Mike, her lover, her chosen partner, cannot give her children, and the ambivalence this engenders, more than anything else, is what keeps Paula up at night. "Whatever dies is not equally mixed," Donne writes deeper into "TheGood-Morrow," and though Paula takes great pains to downplay it, she is acutely conscious of the disparity between her position as a spouse and biological mother and that of Mike, the odd-man-out in the bloodline. She loves him, she lets us know, in spite of his unequal social status, his early unglamorous career in snails, his subpar sperm count.

The more she protests her love, the more we doubt her, until it is not so much Mustardseed but Lady Macbeth she resembles. For all her effusion, a kind of unspoken anger permeates Paula's story, that Mike's "problem" should force her to think about something that for other families might go unexamined, that Science intruded into Art, that, by accepting a sperm donor she is forced to be, to her mind, unfaithful. And so, as if in a strange sort of revenge, she sleeps with the local vet, who has been the first to suggest artificial insemination. It's not lost on the reader that the veterinarian is the only character in the book to have heard of the small science journal Mike edits, the only one to raise him in her estimation. And as if to thank him for respecting her husband, she sleeps with him, making sure she stays one-up on "poor Mikey."

And here we are forced to ask what Swift wants us to take away from Paula's dark night of the soul. Are we to find in her dreamlike narration -- so freighted with dread over the relation of an issue so deflatingly commonplace -- a sign of the airlessness that is the condition of such a well-scrubbed life? Or are we meant to fully share in Paula's sense of the bittersweet destiny that she brings to this narrative all-nighter. Reading a dramatic monologue, one hopes to pierce through the veil of the speaker's self-representation and, by the end, know the character better than she knows herself. But it feels as if Swift himself has not decided who she is, as if the author's own uncertainty about Paula and her version of events lies at the heart of his creation.

And so we watch her going through the novel, alternately killing off her husband and fiercely protecting him. We feel for Mike, asleep beside her, absent and present at the same time, almost a peripheral, agentless player. "I have the shivery feeling he won't be here anymore," Paula says, "not after tomorrow."

Swift ends his book with dawn breaking and the rain tapering off. Paula's inner storm is primarily one of dread and we have the sense that tomorrow, with its final reckoning, will provide some relief. Still, if she could, Paula would prolong tonight and preserve the careful fiction she has created. "I want it both ways," she says (referring to an anniversary trip Mike has planned back to the same hotel, the same room perhaps, where she slept with the vet years before). "I want both to go and not go to Gifford Park, I want you to listen to these things I'm telling you and not hear them at all." For Swift, knowledge and the desire to protect from knowledge, like love and disappointment, are inextricable from the Living World and all it might conceive. --Sheri Holman

Sheri Holman is the author of the novels A Stolen Tongue, The Dress Lodger, and The Mammoth Cheese, which was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307386434
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/9/2008
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Graham Swift lives in London and is the author of seven previous novels: The Sweet-Shop Owner; Shuttlecock, which received the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; Waterland, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the Guardian Fiction Award, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour; Out of This World; Ever After, which won the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; Last Orders, which was awarded the Booker Prize; and, most recently, The Light of Day. He is also the author of Learning to Swim, a collection of short stories. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

You're asleep, my angels, I assume. So, to my amazement and relief, is your father, like a man finding it in him to sleep on the eve of his execution. He'll need all he can muster tomorrow. I'm the only one awake in this house on this night before the day that will change all our lives. Though it's already that day: the little luminous hands on my alarm clock (which I haven't set) show just gone one in the morning. And the nights are short. It's almost midsummer, 1995. It's a week past your sixteenth birthday. By a fluke that's become something of an embarrassment and that some people will say wasn't a fluke at all, you were born in Gemini. I'm not an especially superstitious woman. I married a scientist. But one little thing I'll do tomorrow—today, I mean, but for a little while still I can keep up the illusion—is cross my fingers.

Everything's quiet, the house is still. Mike and I have anticipated this moment, we've talked about it and rehearsed it in our heads so many times that recently it's sometimes seemed like a relief: it's actually come. On the other hand, it's monstrous, it's outrageous—and it's in our power to postpone it. But "after their sixteenth birthday," we said, and let's be strict about it. Perhaps you may even appreciate our discipline and tact. Let's be strict, but let's not be cruel. Give them a week. Let them have their birthday, their last birthday of that old life.

You're sleeping the deep sleep of teenagers. I just about remember it. I wonder how you'll sleep tomorrow.

Sixteen was old enough, sixteen was about right. You're not kids any more, you'd be the first to endorse that. And even in the last sixteen years, you could say, sixteen's become older. Sixteen now is like eighteen was, sixteen years ago. There's an acceleration, an upgrading to things that scare me, but seem hardly to touch you. 1995—already. I'll be fifty in August, I'll have done my annual catching up with your father. What a year of big numbers. Fifty, of course, is nothing now, it's last season's forty. Life's getting longer, more elastic. But that doesn't stop the years getting quicker, this feeling that the world is hurtling.

Perhaps you don't feel it, in your becalmed teenage sleep. Perhaps you want the world to hurtle. Come on, can't it go any faster? Perhaps what all parents want from their children is to feel again that deep, long, almost stationary slowness of time. Another sweet taste of it, please.

But sixteen years have passed and sixteen's like eighteen once was, maybe. But that doesn't matter. To me, tonight, you're still little kids, you're tiny babies, as if you might be sleeping now, not in your separate dens of rooms, but together as you once did in a single cot at Davenport Road. Our Nick and Kate. And what I'm feeling now is simply the most awful thing: that we might be wrenching you for ever from your childhood, in the same way as if you might have been wrenched once prematurely and dangerously from my womb. But you were right on time: the tenth of June 1979. And at two, as it happens, in the morning.

Mike will do the talking. He knows, he accepts that it's up to him. On a Saturday, knowing you both, the morning will be half gone before you even appear for breakfast, and you'll need your breakfast. Then Mike will say that we need to talk to you. He'll say it in an odd, uncasual way, and you'll think twice about answering back. No, right now, please. Whatever other plans you had, drop them. There'll be something in his voice. He'll ask you to sit in the living room. I'll make some fresh coffee. You'll wonder what the hell is going on. You'll think your father's looking rather strange. But then you might have noticed that already, you might have noticed it all this week. What's up with Dad? What's up with the pair of them?

As he asks you to sit, side by side, on the sofa (we've even discussed such minor details), you'll do a quick run-through in your minds of all those stories that friends at school have shared with you: inside stories, little bulletins on domestic crisis. It's your turn now, perhaps. It has the feeling of catastrophe. He's about to tell you (despite, I hope, your strongest suppositions) that he and I are splitting up. Something's been going on now for a little while. He's been having an affair with one of those (young and picked by him) women at his office. An Emma or a Charlotte. God forbid. Or I've been having an affair (God forbid indeed) with Simon at Walker's, or with one of our esteemed but importunate clients. Married life here in Rutherford Road is not all it seems. Success and money, they do funny things. So does being fifty.

You're in tune with such under-the-surface stuff from your between-lessons gossip. It's part of your education: the hidden life of Putney.

But then—you're sixteen. Do you notice, these days, that much about us at all? Do you pick up on our moods and secrecies? We've had a few rows in recent weeks, have you actually noticed? And we don't often row. But then, so have you. You're at a stage—don't think I haven't noticed—when that cord, that invisible rope that runs between you has been stretched to its limit. It's been yanked and tugged this way and that. You have your own worlds to deal with.

And you've only just finished your exams. Ordeal enough. This should have been a weekend of recuperation. And if you'd still had more exams to go we'd have stretched our timetable to accommodate them. Let's not ruin their chances, let's not spoil their concentration. Bad enough that your birthday, last weekend, should have been subject to your last bouts of revision. As it is, we've been tempted. Let's wait—till after the results perhaps, till after one more precious summer. But we came back to our firm ruling: one week's cushion only. And since your birthday fell this year, handily, on a Saturday . . . Forgive us, there's more revision. Exams can affect your life. So can this.

Mike will do the talking. I'll add my bits. And, of course, when he's finished he'll make himself open to questions, as many as you wish. To cross-examination, might be the better expression. It all just might, conceivably, go to plan, though I'm not sure what the "plan" really is, apart from our rigorous timing. It might all be like some meeting that smoothly and efficiently accomplishes its purpose, but it can hardly be like one of your dad's board meetings or one of our cursory get-togethers at Walker's: "That was all dealt with at the meeting . . ."

I think, anyway, you'll want to know everything, the full, complete and intricate story. And you deserve it, as a matter of record.

Your father is gently snoring.

I remember once you said to me, Kate: "Tell me about before I was born." Such simply uttered and innocent words: they sent a shiver through me. I should have been delighted, charmed, even a little flattered. You actually had a concept of a time before you were around, a dawning interest in it. You saw it had some magic connection with you, if you still thought of it, maybe, like life on another planet.

How old were you then—eight? We were on the beach in Cornwall, at Carrack Cove, we had those three summers there, this must have been the second. I'd wrapped you in the big faded-blue beach towel and was rubbing you gently dry, and I remember thinking that the towel was no longer like something inside which you could get lost and smothered, you were so much bigger now. And a whole year had passed since the time when, off that same beach, you both quite suddenly learnt to swim. First you, then Nick almost immediately afterwards, like clockwork. One of those first-time and once-only moments of life. But I'd suddenly called you "a pair of shrimps." Why not "fish?" Or "heroes?" I suppose it was the pinkness and littleness. I suppose it was the way you just jerked and scudded around furiously but ecstatically in the shallows, hardly fish-like at all. I didn't want to think of you yet swimming out to sea. Shrimps.

Did you notice the odd look in my eye? A perfectly innocent question, but there was something strange about it. You said, "Before I was born," not "we." Nick was still down at the water's edge with Mike. He came up so much higher against Mike now, and Mike's always been a good, lean height. Did you notice my little teeter? But I would have quickly smiled, I hope. I would have quickly got all wistful and girl-to-girl, if still motherly. I kept on rubbing you and I told you, you'll remember, about another beach, far away in Scotland, where, I said, your daddy "proposed" to me. In a sand dune, in fact.

That was eight years ago. Half your life. I could still dare to wear a bikini. It was one of those many panicky but smoothed-over moments—you'll understand soon what I mean—which have sometimes brought Mike and me to a sort of brink. Why not now? Oh, we've had our jitters. But we've kept to our schedule. It will be up to you, tomorrow, to judge, to tell us if, in the circumstances, you'd have done the same. But what a stupid idea: if you'd have done the same!

You said you'd like to propose to Nick—to practise proposing to Nick. I said it didn't tend to work that way round, and it was a thing, anyway, that belonged to "those old days." And suppose, I said, Nick should say no? My bikini was dark brown, your little costume was tangerine. It's men, I said, if it happens at all now, who do the proposing.

And sometimes the explaining. But I think you both deserve the full story from me, your mother. Mike will give you his story, his version. I mean, it won't be a story, it will be the facts, a story is what you've had so far. All the same, it will be a sort of version of something real. One thing we've learnt in these sixteen years is how hard it can be to tell what's true and what's false, what's real and what's pretend. It's one thing you'll have to decide, unfortunately. Which version is it to be?

At two o'clock in the morning. Of course, we let you know that. A charming little gloss on those facts of life that were bound to get raised sooner or later and can sometimes be (or they could be in those "old days") a cause of awkward Saturday mornings. Though hardly when you were barely three and first put the innocent question and were both completely enchanted, it seemed, to learn that you both came out of my tummy, that you'd both once been there together. And that seemed to be the bit—do you even remember?—that really tickled you pink, that you'd been there together. So much so that though you'd moved by then to your first little separate beds, it seemed to reinforce your obstinate habit of ending up nonetheless in the same one.

One morning I found you like that, trying to form a positive little single ball of clinging, squirming, not to say giggling flesh. And you said you were practising "not being born yet." And making, if it's possible to say so, a pretty good fist of it.

I should have said that it had tickled me pink once that you'd been there together inside me.

As to that other, critical question: how did you get there?—it never came up then. A stage before the stage of not being born yet, that was beyond your reckoning. But you should know that it was our first, unsteady, provisional position: that when it did come up it should be our guide, our testing of the way ahead for the other thing we had to tell you. It should even be, perhaps, the one and the same occasion. Except that when it did come up it was all at my rushing instigation, and you, Kate—this you'll surely remember—took the wind clean out of my sails.

Another girl-to-girl moment like that one about "proposing," and it can't have been so long after. I was the one, not your dad, who suddenly pushed myself to the fore of doing all the explaining. Though I would have started with the standard biology lesson. "Kate, there are some things you need to know . . . about how babies are really born . . ."

God knows what prompted it. Some little look in your eye, which I took as a challenge? Just that speed at which you were growing? What had we been talking about? And you might have let me just stumble on, even topple, still clutching you, over a precipice you were entirely unaware of. And if the truth be known, a sort of gong was banging in my head: Come on, get it over with! But you took the wind from my sails.

"You mean periods and stuff, Mum? You mean what boys have to do with their willies? It's all right, I already know all about that stuff. And don't worry, I've told Nick all about it as well."

How old were you? You seemed so blithely, safely sure of your ground that I no longer wanted to risk mine. And I'm not sure, to this day, if I ever want to intrude on those early biology lessons you would have given Nick. Your eyes met mine perfectly sunnily. Well, that takes care of that, I thought, that takes care of the facts of life and, until further notice, of the other facts that go with them.

It should all, perhaps, have worked the other way round. That happy well-informedness, apparently, of both of you, should only have let Mike and me press on with our full—agenda. But the fact is it was really then that we fell back on our default position: when they are sixteen. You were surely too young, then, for the full agenda. And, on the other hand, if those facts of life really were taken care of and weren't any more like some flashpoint still in store, did we need to hurry towards trouble?

Okay, you'll grasp this, I'm sure: it was to protect us, as well as you, to extend our sweet lease as much as yours. Will you be able to sympathise?

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Tomorrow begins with the line, “You're asleep, my angels, I assume” [p. 3]. What is the effect of reading a narrative that is addressed, specifically, to someone else? Why might Graham Swift have chosen this narrative structure? How would the effect of the novel be different if it were addressed to a different audience?

2. Why have Paula and Mike Hook decided to wait until their children are sixteen to reveal a secret they have kept for the twins' entire lives?

3. How are Kate and Nick likely to react to the news they are to receive just after the novel ends? Are there clues in the novel that suggest how they will receive the revelation about their father?

4. Paula often remarks that she expects to be judged by her children. How should Kate and Nick judge their parents? How should readers of the novel judge them? Has their sixteen-year-long deception been a responsible or a selfish choice, in your opinion?

5. Tomorrow is an unusual novel in that it consists of the buildup to an event—the revelation—that readers do not get to witness. What is the effect of anticipating but never realizing this scene? Is it frustrating? Or is it, in fact, more satisfying not to know, for sure, what happens? Why might Swift have chosen to leave his novel open-ended?

6. Why does Paula feel it is important to tell Nick and Kate so much about their family history? What qualities of feeling emerge most powerfully from her story?

7. How is Swift able to create such suspense and interest in the absence of certain traditional narrative devices, such as including more than one character's point of view? What does he gain through this unique form?

8. How does Swift so convincingly inhabit the voice and consciousness of his female narrator, Paula? What aspects of a woman's and of a mother's way of thinking and feeling does he represent especially vividly?

9. There are aspects of both comedy and tragedy in Paula's story. What are some of the ways in which she draws out the humor and the sadness of various situations?

10. Tomorrow is very particularly about one family, but in what ways is it about all families?

11. Why does Paula sleep with the veterinarian? Do the motives she herself gives for doing so make sense? Why would she confess this now, to her children and her husband?

12. Paula asks, “And isn't it the point, or one of the points, of this bedtime story, you must be thinking, to underscore the proposition, never mind proposals, that this man lying here and me were always meant for each other, as they say? We were meant to be. And would you yourselves, who have such an intimate interest in the matter, have written the story differently?” [p. 79]. Why do you think this is one of the main points Paula wants to make? Why does she call her story a “bedtime story”? How might her children have written it differently?

13. What does Paula's story reveal about the generational differences and cultural changes that have taken place since the era of her parents up to the era of her children?

14. What does the novel suggest about how we deal with mortality as well as birth? How does this relate to Paula's—and our own—thinking about the future?

15. Do you think these characters are happy? Why, or why not? Is happiness important to them?

16. Why do you think Swift chose to make Nick and Kate twins? How does this impact the family dynamic? How is being a twin similar to or different from being part of a romantic couple? And how does coupledom affect one's personal identity?

17. Paula works for an art dealer, and Mike is a biologist. How do the worlds of art and science tie in to the themes of the book?

18. Paula ends her story, as day is dawning and rain falling, by saying: “Some little bedraggled bird I can't identify, which no doubt has a nest somewhere which is getting drenched too, is singing its heart out. Perhaps I'm wrong, but sometimes mothers can just tell things. In any case, they only want the best for their children” [p. 255]. In what ways can these final sentences be read? Do they say more than they seem to be saying? Why might Swift end the novel in this way?

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2009

    Buy It Today, Rather Than Tomorrow

    Graham Swift writes beautifully. If you
    are at all interested in reading a novel that
    flows effortlessly, and is written with unmitigated
    sincerity, then purchase this novel. It unfolds
    slowly, and yet every word is poignant, and the
    format--a one-sided conversation between a mother
    and her sleeping children--is innovative. This novel
    is a must for any bibliophile who loves language,
    simplicity, and elegance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

    This story could not end soon enough

    This book was very wordy. Too much history into the lives of the family. All I ended up wanting to know was what the secret was. There is no interaction between characters, so the story to me was very boring and just seemed to drag on and on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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