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Wish You Were Here

3.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  763 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
On an autumn day in 2006, on the Isle of Wight, Jack Luxton, former Devon farmer and now the proprietor of a seaside caravan park, receives the news that his soldier brother Tom, has been killed in Iraq. For Jack and his wife Ellie this will have a potentially catastrophic impact. For Jack in particular it means a crucial journey.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 6th 2011 by Picador USA (first published January 1st 2011)
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The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. WatsonWhen God was a Rabbit by Sarah WinmanThe Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2011
48th out of 155 books — 272 voters
The Isle of... Where? by Sue  BrownEngland, England by Julian BarnesWish You Were Here by Graham SwiftTennyson's Gift by Lynne TrussThe Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse
Novels Set on the Isle of Wight
3rd out of 9 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,816)
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Nov 26, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it
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:
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 h
Apr 25, 2012 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok
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
Sheenagh Pugh
May 19, 2011 Sheenagh Pugh rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
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
Ron Charles
Nov 23, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war-fiction
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
Marguerite Kaye
Jan 10, 2012 Marguerite Kaye rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 16, 2012 Savvy rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Jun 23, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
May 06, 2016 Jon rated it liked it
I should say right up front that this is not my kind of book--a painstakingly thorough (slow-motion) description of a few key events in the main character's life, told almost entirely in flashback, as something dreadful may be about to happen in the present moment. This sounds like it might be a good way to build suspense, but in this case the narration keeps spiraling back on itself, revisiting the same scenes over and over, each time with the reader having a little more knowledge of what is re ...more
Nick Duretta
Jul 29, 2014 Nick Duretta rated it really liked it
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
Jan 08, 2015 Sheri rated it really liked it
Ultimately this book is about guilt and everyone’s individual way of dealing with their own regrets. Told mostly from Jack’s point of view, we also get enough of Ellie to not see her as a complete villain. I thought the additional two chapters (one from Tom’s perspective and one from that of the Robinsons were unnecessary). The story takes place in about an hour (while Jack waits for Ellie’s return) in which he relives his life and his most emotional moments. Simultaneously, Ellie sits in the ca ...more
John Newcomb
Mar 29, 2015 John Newcomb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy reading Graham Swift. He writes intensely, often using stream of consciousness techniques, displaying the innermost thought and feelings of his characters who are expertly and exquisitely fully rounded and believable. I just wish occasionally that there was a happier feel to the stories. My first encounter with Swift was "Last Orders" a novel about infidelity, loss and the scattering of the main protagonists ashes. In "Waterland" it was about death, abortion, murder and kidnapping ...more
Washington Post
Jan 07, 2014 Washington Post rated it really liked it
“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
Jun 22, 2014 Ryan Williams rated it did not like it
-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
Phillip Edwards
Jul 08, 2011 Phillip Edwards rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2011
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
Steve Mayer
Apr 13, 2012 Steve Mayer rated it really liked it
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
Dec 11, 2012 Sandie rated it really liked it
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
Kirsty Darbyshire
Aug 09, 2011 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
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.
Nov 27, 2013 David rated it it was ok
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
Jun 16, 2013 Gareth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Angie Fehl
May 10, 2016 Angie Fehl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Having grown up in a family with a long military history, and having experienced having a brother in the military whose life I always worried about while he was stationed overseas, I went into this novel with certain expectations. I pictured myself falling into an emotional rollercoaster of a novel, full of scenes I could easily identify with. Alas, I did not grow up with a sheep farmer turned campground owner brother with a depressed wife. So the beginning befuddled me a bit, but I tried to kee ...more
Nov 17, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
It’s long been popular to criticize the proliferation of writing MFA programs in the US. And it’s easy to dismiss the overly processed, cookie cutter fiction they often shape. But these programs tend to teach those aspects of writing that are actually teachable. They focus on the “show don’t tell” school of writing—a kind of visual story that’s constructed of discrete scenes composed of dialogue and gesture. It’s the kind of fiction that feels closest to cinematic. But there are other kinds of w ...more
Jennifer Mcgown
Jul 25, 2014 Jennifer Mcgown rated it it was ok
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
Sep 08, 2014 Buchdoktor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family, brothers
„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
Feb 07, 2014 Kruip rated it really liked it
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
Carolyn Mck
Jan 09, 2016 Carolyn Mck rated it liked it
This story reminds one in part of Swift’s Last Orders, a great book. This doesn’t live up to that one but has a lot going for it.

Jack and Ellie grew up on neighbouring farming properties in Devon; now they manage a caravan park on the Isle of Wight. Jack receives news that his younger brother Tom, from whom he has heard nothing for many years, has been killed in Iraq. The novel moves between past and present as Jack confronts his responsibilities for Tom’s burial and the memories this all invok
Jul 11, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
"There is no end to madness, Jack thinks, once it takes hold". That is the first line of this well written novel. There are all kinds of quiet madness in this book. 2 dairy herds decimated intentionally by Mad Cow Disease that might happen but has not, a long term marriage where the people involved assign each other motives and feelings that they never discuss with each other. Woven in and out of the story is the apparition of Tom, Jack's brother who has been killed while serving in Iraq. To eac ...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
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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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