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The Light of Day

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  1,403 ratings  ·  104 reviews
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, an
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Paperback, 323 pages
Published August 10th 2004 by Vintage Books (first published 2003)
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C.
Feb 18, 2009 C. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one who values their sanity
Graham Swift's The Light of Day is a sort of psychological/crime/love story. George Webb, a disgraced policeman, now works as a private detective, investigating the extra-marital affairs of the spouses of his clients. However, he gets emotionally involved with the case of Sarah Nash, whose husband had an affair with the Croatian refugee they sheltered in their home.

I didn't like it. I couldn't stand the prose style. He often uses short, pseudo-emotional sentences that lack a verb phrase (though
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Sophie
This is what I thought all adult books were like when I was a child - dry stories about middle aged people having affairs. I really struggled to finish this book, the writing was very stilted and repetitive, and the story of an aging private detective in love with one of his previous clients didn't really grip me. Not a bad book, just not my type.
Jude Thomas
Whilst I liked the style of writing, I was waiting for some kind of twist at the end, which never came. I also couldn't believe in the relationship between George and Sarah. He never really explained what it was about her that made him so head over heels in love after a few brief meetings (other than he liked her knees!).
Barb
At first this novel reminded me of 'The Maltese Falcon' or 'The Big Sleep', the protagonist is a big tough ex-cop turned private detective. His specialty is getting incriminating photos of spousal infidelity, most of his clients are women.

George Webb narrates a day in his life and slowly reveals the details of his relationships with his ex-wife, daughter, assistant, his parents who have passed as well as the current love interest in his life.

He talks about pivotal moments in his life, secrets th
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Tara
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vivienne
While this wasn't awful I really found it somewhat hard going and a bit dull. The stream-of-consciousness style of narration was all over the place as private investigator George Webb mused about his case involving femme fatale Sarah, who really didn't seem all that much for him to get so worked up over, as well as his childhood, his leaving the police force in disgrace, his failed marriage and so on and so on. It felt very unfocused with no real mystery, or tension and a rather limp romance.

Ho
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Seth
I had remembered liking "Last Orders," but I hadn't exactly put Graham Swift on my list of authors to exhaustively read. Based on a friend's recommendation and the need to quickly decide on something before traveling, I grabbed this one.

The book I read just before this one had been somewhat depressing, and "Light of Day" seemed like it was headed that way also. But the story was told with an incredible tenderness, and that helped make the book more relatable. The main character went through a g
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Tom
Dec 01, 2011 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: lit
Swift can lead you to the brink of sheer boredom and somehow pull you into the clutches of pure fascination. His narrators, seem so innocent, almost harmless, but through the force of their narrative effectively dominate you into wanting to follow down every last corridor of mental meandering and pluck tediously the glorious fabrics of lint from your naval, and you do all this knowing it's happening against your better judgment, almost against your will, yet you find yourself obsessing right alo ...more
Chris
hmmmmm... not crazy about this book. the writing is beautiful, but for some reason i feel annoyed... mainly because i don't "get it"... what makes him fall in love with this woman? "her knees"? he talks about her knees, he says over and over (to the point that you want to throttle him) "how do we choose?". i found the whole situation rather unbelievable, however, if you enjoy beautiful prose, certainly he is a master of that! his descriptions of the "cold day" are so spot on that i suddenly feel ...more
Gizzard
Quick read, and mostly interesting. The first person point of view, all taking place in one day, didn't really work that well. The writing style was very choppy and all over the place in the beginning. Then towards the end, the whole story becomes more coherent and linear. And this is really a contradiction to what is happening in the book, but is easier for the author bringing the story to a close. (why don't editors point out that if you are going to pick a novelty story telling device, you go ...more
Yelena Malcolm
This story of a private investigator and his unusual attachment to a client suffered from the disjointed style of the narrative. Additionally, or perhaps because of that style, the characters only ever appeared half-formed and not worthy of sympathy. The reader was left wanting something mor to hold onto.

Like all Swift novels, this was a quick read, but unlike some of his others, Last Orders comes to mind, there was little to engage the reader and one felt very removed from the story, the charac
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Linda Owen
If you're looking for a standard murder mystery, leave this volume on the shelf. There's a murder, all right, but the mystery is existential. You spend 324 pages, one fictional day, inside the head of disgraced detective George Webb as he contemplates the slippery nature of love, choices and identity, and obsesses over what might have been. You're drawn toward truths gradually revealed in George's thoughts. Trying not to spoil the ending, I'll just say George finds an anchor in the remarkable co ...more
Kingfan30
Private eyes! Not my favourite sort of person, been followed by one myself and its not a nice feeling (long story!). Anyway this is a strange one, it flits back and fort constantly and is written in quite a cryptic way, it takes a while to work out what is going on. I thought this way of writing would fade out once the crime was revealed, but no, it carries on for the whole book, and requires a bit of concentration. An interesting read, and my first by this author.
Mary
Talk about a book that does not live up to its title. I almost feel like I must have missed something essential in this book given that it seemed like the dark of misery or some such. If you enjoy books about infidelity and the tedious, minute investigation of the details of emotional upheaval as a result than this book will probably work for you. But for me it drug on and on with this insistent stupidity of two of the characters who are obsessively in love with people that appear to have little ...more
Bob
There are books in which the entire crime/cataclysmic event is laid out at the beginning and the story gradual reconstructs how it happened. The Light of Day takes a more elliptical approach in which the narrator's stream of consciousness gradually reveals both what happened and how it did. It jumps around quite a bit chronologically, though eventually resolves itself to 4 or 5 narrative streams and we quickly learn which is currently being pursued.

The style is very plain, one might say Hemingwa
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Calzean
A little frustrating to read - maybe it should have been a short story - as the narrator, George an ex-cop and Private Detective tells of his infatuation with his client, Sarah and the events leading up to her murdering her husband. Has some scenes like in Last Orders where the story deviates into Georges's childhood and the event where he is disgraced in the police force, and a fascination with life and death.

What George sees in Sarah and what Sarah thinks of George is never explained. He seems
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Chris
The Light of Day
By: Graham Swift
2003


I have no qualms with authors finding inspiration for their novels in other revered titles. Graham Swift ran into controversy in 1996 when critics found numerous structural similarities between his Booker Prize winning novel Last Orders and one of my favourite books, As I Lay Dying by Faulkner. While I have not read Last Orders, since it isn't on the list, I have found that the two novels that are included on the list share similarities to other important work
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Kai Coates
Graham Swift's The Light of Day encompasses a single day in the life of Private Detective George Webb. Webb's day is spent memorializing a day 2 years ago (visiting a cemetery, visiting a prison) and the book is presented from his viewpoint as he relives that day, thinks about his past, and is unable to move into the future. I would describe the writing style as steam-of-consciousness light. It's not Joyce or Woolf, and it's not particularly well-done, but it is effective (and without the confus ...more
Stephen
I found this book quite similar in its themes as those of Graham Greene's The End Of The Affair (except for the Catholicism). It explores issues of fidelity and love, as well as death. There was enough powerful writing to make me give this book 5 stars, although a few part were a little frustrating in that the power of the story ebbed a little here and there.

But overall it touched on a topic I am finding fascinating at the moment, that of marriage and monogamy and faithfulness. Desire does not d
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Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tony
THE LIGHT OF DAY. (2003). Graham Swift. *****.
This was a marvelous novel by Mr. Swift that clearly rated between four-stars and five-stars; so…what the hell. It managed to grab my attention from the first page onwards, in spite of being written in the first person. It’s the story of one day in the life of George Webb. Webb is an ex-policeman, struck from the force for a reason you eventually learn, who has now taken on the business of being a Private Detective. He has his own agency, with one em
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Tal
i liked Mr Swift's writing style - i found it easy to understand, although
> the jumps in time confused me until i figured out what he was doing
> (although i didnt realise til the end that the entire book happens over
> one day).
>
> i am not entirely convinced about love-at-first-sight but George's patient
> chasing/persuasion of Sarah felt sweet and touching (if possibly a little
> lost-puppy-ish on his side), as did George's relationship with Helen (his
> daughter).
>
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Diane
After reading Graham Swift's "Tomorrow," I wanted to read something else by him. I was glad I did. Swift is a fine novelist, introspective and with an interesting story to tell. This one is narrated by an ex-cop, turned private eye, George Webb, and reads something like a well written whodunnit, with a murder included. The story takes place in one day, and the central focus is George's obsessive relationship with a woman client. Swift goes psychologically deep, and understands emotions that reve ...more
Jim
Odd, dreamy, obsessive book. Mulling and thinking and obsessing over Sarah, a love that was never a lover: George strikes one as the Don Quixote of detectives in a mundane London suburb: the champion of lost causes. Or at least, murky causes. Interesting book, but difficult. Endless parsing and questioning of his mission - where's the resolution? Not the author's best.
Dan
Decent read, and one challengingly written. The narrative loops back and forth, from the past to the present, and always in the strong, steady, seemingly logical voice of George Webb.

Two things made this a three-star read for me: (SPOILER ALERT)


- why Webb obsessively visits his former client behind bars for two years, and will continue to do so, baffled me. They met three times, and had no intense interaction. Webb's puppy dog idolatry is sorely out of place.
- why Webb, on a hunch, turns arou
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Jonathan
Maybe it is just the mood I have been in this summer, but this is another abandoned book. I tried, I really tried but I just completely lost interest.

For one thing, it tries too hard to be "catchy" or something. It is told entirely in flashbacks, as a single day rolls along. And interesting idea, to be sure, but layered on top of that is a first person, almost stream of consciousness writing style that wants to pull you into the store as it slowly (ever ever so slowly) gets unfolded.

But I didn'
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Kathleen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Micaela
A detective, psychological mystery, love story. As a writer, I enjoyed the unusual style of the narrative which offers information slowly and seemingly randomly by various means, though most often in flashback. His style somehow mimics thought which can be unnerving at times. However, there is something quite compelling about residing inside the detective narrator's head as he tries to make sense of his past relationships, his relationship with his daughter, and with an unfaithful couple he beco ...more
Steve
Swift provides further proof, if any were necessary, that he is a master at delving into the hidden psyche of his characters. The reader is drawn into the private turmoil, whereby disgraced former policeman and private detective, George Webb, becomes embroiled in what originally appears as just another case of an adulterous husband. What transpires is that our narrator reveals piece by piece his attraction and loyalty to the abandoned wife, and the author's talents are clearly and magisterially ...more
Sheri C
May 11, 2011 Sheri C marked it as abandoned
Gave this up pretty quickly. I attempted the audio version, so perhaps it translates poorly in that format, but the style made the story entirely impossible to comprehend. I kept checking my ipod to see if it was skipping chapters because there seemed to be no coherent narrative. Just as I thought I had grasped whatever the protagonist was rattling on about, the focus and topic seemed to shift to something else. Perhaps some people find this sort of storytelling gymnastics compelling, but it fel ...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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More about Graham Swift...
Last Orders Waterland Wish You Were Here Tomorrow Ever After

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