The Light of Day — Graham Swift

Just finished reading The Light of Day by Graham Swift. Is there any other author that captures the fragility of time and the temporal quality of life better than Swift? This novel is so many things: at once a riveting thriller and a contemplative deep-dive into the human spirit; a book that follows multiple narratives and time frames while remaining wholly engrossing and dynamic.

The Light of Day follows George, an ex-policeman who now utilises his skill in the field of private investigation. When a new client asks him to follow her husband as he drops his lover off at the airport, George thinks he’s set to make easy money but his world becomes forever changed. As he reminisces about these events two years later, we learn just how complex this case became and how George has become irreversibly tangled within it.

I’m being very vague about the plot and for good reason. Part of this novel’s appeal is piecing it all together. In a similar vein to his outstanding novel Mothering Sunday, this book muses about what time can do and what hidden moments can often reveal about our lives and relationships.

Swift’s story telling and prose is, as ever, masterful but there’s something else exceptional about this novel. Its structure is so carefully crafted; Swift narrates a momentous event and its aftermath in one breath.

The novel at first feels like a collection of broken fragments that may be impossible to piece together but as the structure comes together, he reveals a story that is shattering and emotional in its depth. This is why I say this novel is so many things at once.

Other authors would have settled for a brilliant plot but Swift crafts the hell out of this concept and this novel becomes a memorable read not just because it is brilliant but because it’s rewarding. Finally, a book that has something to say and takes time to say it well.

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