Wish You Were Here
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Wish You Were Here

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  570 ratings  ·  148 reviews
From the prizewinning author of the acclaimed "Last Orders, The Light of Day, "and "Waterland," a powerfully moving new novel set in present-day England, but against the background of a global "war on terror" and about things that touch our human core.
On an autumn day in 2006, on the Isle of Wight, Jack Luxton--once a farmer, now the proprietor of a seaside caravan park-...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Picador USA (first published January 1st 2011)
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Man Booker Prize Eligible 2011
48th out of 154 books — 254 voters
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Nov 26, 2012 B0nnie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to B0nnie by: Joyce
"Wish you were here". An old chestnut, but oh, it can be so painfully heartfelt. I immediately think of the great Pink Floyd song: http://youtu.be/DPL_SV3n7IU
And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

And then there's the epigraph,
Are these things done on Albion’s shore?
William Blake: ‘A Little Boy Lost’

Here is the complete paragraph,
And burned hi
A Marriage, several Deaths, a Soldier, and the Dream of Palm Trees.

This is the best book I’ve read so far in 2012. Swift presents an intricacy of loyalties, emotions, and attachments between a boy and a girl who grew up together outside Devon, England. Their families had adjoining dairy farms that barely scraped by during the years of animal diseases that were feared to infect people. The farmers were forced to kill many seemingly healthy animals as a preventative. Many farmers were forced out o...more
I’ve read a couple of books by Graham Swift: I discovered his Last Orders when it won the Booker (see my review at The Complete Booker) and I read and enjoyed Waterland with one of my online book groups. (It’s on the 1001 Books I Must Read list too). On the strength of that, I bought Tomorrow for the TBR and some Op Shop finds as well : The Sweet Shop Owner and Ever After.

So having established my credentials as an enthusiast, I’m not best pleased about having to admit that Wish You Were Here did...more
Sheenagh Pugh
I've liked Swift's short stories very much in the past, finding them told with a masterly reticence and economy (eg "Seraglio"). I was disappointed in this novel because it showed just the opposite qualities.

In the first place it's "writerly" in the wrong way; it shows a lot of fancy writerly tics that in my view just get in the way of a good story (not that there is one, in this case). I can see why he uses tricksy narrative methods like a lot of flashing back and forward, changing viewpoints e...more
Marguerite Kaye
I absolutely loved this, just couldn't put it down. Very much along the lines of Last Orders (another of my favourites) the narrative flow of this book jumps backwards and forwards in time and switches point of view at key points, which keeps you speculating and page-turning, desperate to know what happened. It was funny, touching, heart-wrenching, harrowing, infuriating, quirky, and overall what it was, was human. I know this is a strange word to use, but I mean it was about being human - flawe...more
Wish I had been Elsewhere…
As a fan of Swift’s novels in the past, I was very much looking forward to reading WISH YOU WERE HERE.
However, I felt tedium overtake the pace, plot, and cast of characters throughout most of the novel. As much as Swift can be mesmerizing and brilliant in passages, I slogged through what felt much like a slow monotonous and bereaved dullness.
Jack Luxton bottled up as bovine in his sentience symbolic of his cattle.
Ellie, self-centered and unsupportive in her relationshi...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
I found this a highly moving, intelligent novel and I hope I can do it a bit of justice in my review. In this novel Graham Swift writes movingly about families and relationships, the secrets that are held inside, the things that go unspoken and that we never know about others, and in particular, even about those closest to us. Jack Luxton and his brother Tom grew up at Jebb dairy farm in North Devon, with parents Michael and Vera. A young Jack sends a postcard from the seaside on the two holiday...more
Ron Charles
Graham Swift’s previous novel, “Tomorrow” (2007), was such a fiasco that a grim kind of suspense built up around his new book. Would “Wish You Were Here” inspire another round of jeering on both sides of the Atlantic?

We shouldn’t have worried. “Tomorrow” was clearly just a Booker winner’s misstep, an awkward exorcism of some writerly kink. “Wish You Were Here” is an extraordinary novel, the work of an artist with profound insight into human nature and the mature talent to deliver it just the way...more
“A good novel,” Graham Swift wrote in a recent essay in the New York Times Book Review, “is like a welcome pause in the flow of our existence; a great novel is forever revisitable. Novels can linger with us long after we’ve read them — even, and perhaps particularly, novels that compel us to read them, all other concerns forgotten, in a single intense sitting.”

Swift has it right, and has given us another great novel in “Wish You Were Here.” Like his Booker Prize-winning “Last Orders,” his newest...more
Nick Duretta
Swift is a brilliant, deft writer, and this novel amply displays his gifts--examining ordinary people grappling with the often bewildering and terrorizing aspects of human existence: love, loss, identity, family. While Jack, the main character, is forced to confront the death of his younger brother in Iraq and reconcile that with the tragic suicide of his father by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, there is no grand event in this novel, no key occurrence that provides a convenient hook. Rather, we...more
Washington Post
“Wish You Were Here” is an extraordinary novel, the work of an artist with profound insight into human nature and the mature talent to deliver it just the way he wants. The British author has set this unhurried exploration of grief and longing in the English countryside, but it’s infected with the violent terrors of contemporary life. As he did with "Waterland" (1983) — as every truly great novelist does — in this new book, he demonstrates that perfect coordination between style and story. You c...more
Ryan Williams
-So what did you think about the new Graham Swift?
-I've mixed emotions about it.
-Why? He's the bloke who wrote Waterland, Last Orders, modern classics if ever there were! Let's not forget Shuttlecock, The Light of Day, and the short story 'Learning to Swim' either. What the hell's NOT to like?
-He wrote Out of this World and Tomorrow, too. Two suckfests if ever there were.
-Oh, picky picky. Anyway. We're back in vintage Swift territory - landscape and memory.
-Meaning, he's doing...more
Phillip Edwards
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kasa Cotugno
With With You Were Here, Graham Swift returns to that which he does better than anyone else -- the contemplative novel that probes the innermost secrets of the past and how they affect the present and future. Jack Luxton's transition from running the Devonshire farm his family ran for over 400 years into a proprietor of a caravan holiday site on the Isle of Wight is neither simply explained or treated lightly. Hs inner growth has been shaped mostly by those around him who are now mostly gone. Al...more
I read this book during this autumn season, it’s all gloomy, rainy and dark clouds all the weeks. it sort of matched with the situation in the book. it gave me the exact feelings while reading this.

i think this is the first book that i felt that the character was going through too much. first his mother died, then followed by his sick dog which was shot by his dad. then his dad committed suicide. and his brother, who was in the army, hasn’t been home for years, returned in a coffin.

what change...more
Steve Mayer
I am a Graham Swift fan, listing Waterland as one of my all time favorites, and this book evokes both Waterland, in its intense sense of place and history, and Last Orders, since like that book it is centered around a death-related ritual. It is an extended meditation on loss: the loss of a brother, the loss of parents, the loss of security; the loss of s farm/family home; and the loss of the English countryside (to nouveau riche Londoners with a yen for second homes). It is about what it means...more
Jack Luxton is a farmer. He has grown up on a farm in England that has been in his family for generations. He looks and moves like a farmer; built large and solid and moving deliberately. He has the farmer ethical mindset; he is there to care for others and do his duty by all. It is even more surprising, then, to find that Jack moved from the farm over a decade ago. He is on his final trip back and reviewing his life.

Life was not easy growing up. His father is remote and withholding, setting hig...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
I loved this - very possibly the best book I've read this year.

All the reviews I've seen seem to concentrate on it being a story based around the return home of the body of a soldier from Iraq. However I don't think that's really the centre of the story. It's certainly a story with a lot to do with death, dying and legacies left behind, but the return of a soldier is only one part of it and not to my mind the most important part. He's just part of the story of the end of a Devon farming family....more
I've wanted to read Swift for a long time, but somehow it never quite happened. I must have started with the wrong book though, because this one is a disaster. I didn't believe a single emotion the characters were said to be experiencing. The list of tragedies goes on and on, but they're never dramatized in such a way that made me believe they were tragedies or that the characters would be as devastated as the narrator kept claiming they were. The devices Swift uses to ostensibly bring us closer...more
I loved Last Orders and was afraid that Wish You Were Here wouldn't live up to my expectations. However there was no need to worry. If anything it surpassed them, perhaps because the events referred to were ones that I could more closely relate to.

I am a fan of Graham Swift's style: scenarios rerun from different angles, allusions to future developments in the storyline, descriptions of conversations that might have been, the examination of universal human relationships.

I must read more of his w...more
Jennifer Mcgown
This is the first Graham Swift novel I have ever read. It is very long, tedious and I really didn't get the characters. Jack Luxton, the only Luxton left in the world receives a letter from the Department of Defense which informs him that his younger brother Tom is dead. He gets this letter which was originally sent to the family farm at his new address on the Isle of Wight at the holiday caravan park "The Lookout". This sets Jack on a journey told at great length thru flashbacks of how he and...more
„Zum Glück ist es außerhalb der Saison passiert“, sagt Ellie Luxton zu ihrem Mann. Jack Luxtons jüngerer Bruder ist im Irakkrieg gefallen und die britische Armee wird den Leichnam „repatriieren“. Jack muss den Sarg seines Bruders allein in Empfang nehmen und zur Beisetzung in seinem Heimatort begleiten. Ellie bleibt auf dem Campingplatz, den die beiden auf der Isle of Wight betreiben. Je weiter Graham Swift in die Familiengeschichte seiner Figuren zurückgreift, umso sonderbarer wirkt die Beziehu...more
Er is geen plek op de wereld waar je echt alles, ook al is het maar even, kunt vergeten. Vreemd, of bevreemdend, omdat we allemaal wel een beetje in die illusie geloven. Swift laat je/mij kabbelend binnentreden in zijn verhaal. Dat tempo houdt hij wonderwel vast, hoe snel ik ook lees, of lezen wil.
Wat ik in dit verhaal sterk vind, is hoe Swift de diverse hoofdpersonen hun invullingen, scenario's, verhaal, historie, toekomst laat uitspreken. Zonder dat ze al die gedachten aan elkaar meedelen, we...more
Alison Smith
My first GS novel; it could just be my last. I found his recursive style of every nuance of thought & emotion quite tedious. Maybe I wasn't in the mood. I know its a 'good book', but I didn't enjoy it particularly & forced myself to finish.
A beautifully written book about Jack Luxton from rural Devon, his brother Tom who goes off to Iraq, his long term girlfriend and wife Ellie and his relationship with his parents. Tom is killed and Jack finds old memories resurfacing and questions his own sanity and wonders whether suicide is genetic.

The first third of the book was a bit slow but it moved along later in the story with the ending still in doubt till the last page. This book could have been a great short story but the length of th...more
I almost gave up on this one but having read and enjoyed "Waterland" many years ago and the glowing reviews for this work, I stayed the course. The verdict --- a very slow moving novel that makes little sense. The principle character sinks into a remorseful depression, one that could easily result in the murder of his wife and his own suicide over the death in Iraq of his younger brother from whom he has had no contact for 13 years. There is an 8 differences in age between the brothers and there...more
Well written & slightly disturbing. I preferred Waterland.
The protagonist of Wish You Were Here is the taciturn but quietly emotional (and frankly brilliantly- and heart-wrenchingly-written) Jack Luxton. Jack is the last in a long line of Luxton farmers from Devon, but he cut all ties with the area and moved to the Isle of Wight with his wife Ellie after his parents’ death. His Devon years, at the family home at Jebb Farm, were wracked with hardship and grief though, at times (almost exclusively because of the love and admiration he has for his little...more
Philip Lane
Not for the faint hearted. There are a lot of deaths in the book, from pets to siblings and throughout the story the whiff of burning piles of cattle leaves a stifling feeling. But these deaths, whilst described in some detail, may be violent and unexpected they are not dwelt on by the author. The deaths themselves are not his interest, he doesn't describe how it felt to die. I was not horrified by the deaths. No, the object of interest is those left behind and their grief and bereavement. The '...more
Lee Razer
Ruminative. So ruminative. Jack and Ellie grew up on neighboring dairy farms in very out-of-the-way North Devon. They both lost their mothers, the dairy cow business went to hell what with the BSE and then hoof and mouth disease, and the only recompense they had in their teenage and young adult years was each other. Lest this sound at all romantic in some sense, it's not very; Jack is the slow silent type without much to say, but it all works well enough. At least for Jack.

Ellie, though satisfie...more
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Graham Colin Swift FRSL (born May 4, 1949) is a British author. He was born in London, England and educated at Dulwich College, London, Queens' College, Cambridge, and later the University of York. He was a friend of Ted Hughes.

Some of his works have been made into films, including Last Orders, which starred Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins and Waterland which starred Jeremy Irons. Last Orders was a...more
More about Graham Swift...
Last Orders Waterland The Light of Day Tomorrow Ever After

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“The oak was, of course, a great stealer of the surrounding pasture—its only value to provide shade for the livestock—but it was a magnificent tree. It had been there at least as long as Luxtons had owned the land. To have removed it would have been unthinkable (as well as a forbidding practical task). It simply went with the farm. No one taking in that view for the first time could have failed to see that the tree was the immovable, natural companion of the farmhouse, or, to put it another way, that so long as the tree stood, so must the farmhouse. And no mere idle visitor—especially if they came from a city and saw that tree on a summer’s day—could have avoided the simpler thought that it was a perfect spot for a picnic.” 4 likes
“Not all of it was done by soldiers, or by men. She’d shut her eyes and run her fingers over Jack’s shoulders, down his spine, as a blind person might seek to recognise the shape of something. The shape—the ache in her own flesh—of her love for him.” 2 likes
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