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THE LIGHT OF DAY by Graham Swift Kirkus Star

THE LIGHT OF DAY

by

Pub Date: May 5th, 2003
ISBN: 0-375-41549-1
Publisher: Knopf

An ex-policeman turned private detective finds himself unable to forget a former client who murdered her unfaithful husband.

This intricate and absorbing seventh novel from the Booker-winning British author (Last Orders, 1996, etc.) is constructed “like one of those sequences of film played backwards, so the victim who’s been struck down seems to leap towards the blow.” That metaphoric film is the narrative that assembles itself in the mind and memory of protagonist George Webb. We first meet Webb on the anniversary of the day when language teacher Sarah Nash killed her husband Bob, a successful gynaecologist [sic] who had just ended his affair with Kristina Lazic, the Croatian refugee who had been Sarah’s pupil and their houseguest, and was returning to her formerly embattled homeland. The tricky narrative circles around the day of that murder, which is juxtaposed against related occasions and memories: the day Webb’s wife Rachel left him, following his dismissal from the force for assaulting a suspect and botching a probable conviction; Sarah Nash’s first meeting with the p.i. Webb and his instant attraction to her; the day at the golf course during Webb’s youth when he discovered his own father’s adultery; and the present day, when Webb observes the rituals of bringing flowers to Bob Nash’s grave, and visiting the prison where Sarah waits, another ghost from his past that he’s unable to embrace. The story is a triumph of tone: its slowly accreting portrayal of a life unraveling with agonizing slowness, haunted by infidelity, secrecy, and guilt, gathers great emotional power. It is, however, intermittently redundant and sluggish, and the potentially rich character of Sarah is (deliberately, we understand) never brought fully into focus. Nevertheless, The Light of Day is an elegant and gripping text: a virtuoso fusion of noir-drenched mystery and psychological analysis reminiscent of similar recent works by Kazuo Ishiguro and Paul Auster.

A moody lament for a vanished past, present, and future that grates subtly on the nerves and lingers uncomfortably in the memory.