Andy's Reviews > Waterland

Waterland by Graham Swift
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Jan 07, 08

it was ok
Read in January, 2008

"Waterland" is a book I think I will quickly forget. The place is perhaps what will stay with me the most. The author, Swift, clearly did quite a bit of research on English waterways & the historical relevance of inner-waterway travel & commerce in 19th century England. So that was different. And there is also a weird relationship between nature & the people that inhabit this place that was mildly intriguing, although I never really put my finger on what that connection means for these people.

What bothered me most about the book is that none of the characters are terribly memorable. We travel through generations of the Atkinson family history, following their rise to prominence, their greatest successes (in the brewing industry), followed by strange supernatural happenings which lead to the inevitable family decline, a notable incestuous entanglement and finally a murder and somewhat disgraceful modern circumstance. Despite all that "action," I never really felt compelled to keep turning the page. This was a book I kept reading more out of duty than suspense. I think I was generally bored by the narrative voice. The narrator is forty years removed from the last great events of the plot, and he has an audience of high school history students more or less listening to him tell of these events, but their role is rather limited. The narrative commentary on the declining relevance of history in our lives was too heavy-handed for my taste. In the end, the tie between the present story & the backstory (where most of the action lies) was too tenuous and arbitrary.
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