Waterland by Graham Swift
It is tough to pin down exactly what is going on in Waterland. It’s partially a murder mystery, as a lot of the story aims to uncover the truth of a killing that took place in the narrator’s distant past. It’s partially a memoir, with a narrator recounting the struggles and conflicts that had to be overcome in order to bring him into existence. It is a romance and a family drama and a fairy tale. The narration jumps from the present to the past, and the conflicts range from the ordinary (a teacher has an unruly student) to the extraordinary (well, I can’t really give any of those away here, can I?) And the catch is – the book is remarkably readable. Swift’s prose is fluid and crisp, his characters are memorable, and their tragedies, large and small, earn our sympathy. There are few novels I’ve ever read that have been as effective at creating an emotional tone as consistently as this book does. I highly recommend Waterland.