The Light of Day
By Graham Swift
By the author of the 1996 Booker Prize winner, Last Orders.Tweet
St Just Thursday Evening Reading Group 3rd December 2020.
The light of day. Graham Swift.
This book provoked a variety of reactions from the reading group. Some said they really enjoyed it, found it 'gripping', were not phased by the backwards and forwards of time, liked it being written from the 'dark side', appreciated the descriptions of the weather and the changing light of the winter's day on which it was set, and thought it had 'an edginess to it that kept me wanting to read'. The level of tension was kept up, the descriptions of the main characters were brilliant, and 'in the end a tale of love and deep betrayal', were some of the comments.
Others thought it 'an unusual read', a detective story all about the detective and not the detection. Carefully structured and gradually revealing the detective's thought processes and reasoning, keeps the interest.
Those who had lived in or were familiar with Wimbledon and Putney appreciated the author's local knowledge, and were able to distinguish real locations from the few added fictional ones.
Other readers, and other comments, however, were much less enthusiastic. One reader gave up, finding it didn't hold her interest at all, and agreed with another's comment that the lack of dialogue was a problem. No conversations, and very sparse writing, with short, clipped phrases and no elaboration, seemed to produce an 'empty' effect which several readers referred to – the 'low key style failed to convey the passion that must have been felt by the narrator to make him wait as long as he was prepared to'. One said that it was 'missing such a crucial part of what I want from a novel.' Another reader said she did not appreciate the episodic style (though she thought the writing was excellent), and that this problem was exacerbated by there being so few characters.
The ending, also, disappointed several readers, who wanted an explanation and a more credible scenario.
A clever book, perhaps, all based upon the events of one day; but one lacking in passion, or even warmth, and in the end the constraint and reticence of its characters made it hard for the reader to engage with it despite its many excellent qualities.
This book was read during November 2020 and the continuing restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus, and so the discussion was not 'live' as usual, but took place via a Facebook group, email and telephone conversations.