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Set in the bleak Fen Country of East Anglia, and spanning some 240 years in the lives of its haunted narrator and his ancestors, Waterland is a book that takes in eels and incest, ale-making and madness, the heartless sweep of history and a family romance as tormented as any in Greek tragedy.
"Waterland, like the Hardy novels, carries with all else a profound knowledge of a people, a place, and their interweaving.... Swift tells his tale with wonderful contemporary verve and verbal felicity.... A fine and original work."--Los Angeles Times
meditations on the laws of perspective. And yet this land, so regular, so prostrate, so tamed and cultivated, would transform itself, in my five- or six-year-old mind, into an empty wilderness. On those nights when my mother would be forced to tell me stories, it would seem that in our lock-keeper’s cottage we were in the middle of nowhere; and the noise of the trains passing on the lines to King’s Lynn, Gildsey and Ely was like the baying of a monster closing in on us in our isolation. A
perhaps it was this common factor – the absence of a mother – that (among other things) drew her and Tom Crick together. So Farmer Metcalf, intending his daughter for Higher Things, but scarcely consulting her own inclinations, sent her to the St Gunnhilda School for Girls (more exclusive by far than the Gildsey High School for Girls), firmly believing his outlay and his efforts must have results. Just as his neighbour, Henry Crick, a humble lock-keeper, seeing his younger child, without any
we fix the zenith of the Atkinsons? When can we date the high summer of their success? Was it on that June day in 1849? Or was it later, in 1851, when among the products privileged to be represented at the Great Exhibition was a bottled ale from the Fens, known appropriately as Grand ’51, which, in the face of strong competition, won a silver medal for excellence, outdoing even the noble brewers of Burton-on-Trent? Was it before that, in 1846, when having served his six years as alderman of the
member – flopping and dangling, inert. A fair specimen, sizeable but not gross, in its unprimed state. But I had never glimpsed— I had even reflected – considering Dick’s other sluggish characteristics, his potato head, his lack of words, his muddy gaze – that Dick just wasn’t interested. But I had never glimpsed— And nor perhaps had Dick. Perhaps this occasion was for him as for us one of astonishing and traumatic discovery. For he thrusts this prodigy before him, bracing his pelvis, as if
population was no more. Perhaps they might have forgiven Ernest Atkinson. Perhaps they might have been prepared to excuse his warning diatribe from the town hall rostrum and his even more outrageous experiment in prophetical admonition in that summer of 1911. Perhaps they might have declared themselves chastened. But they did not want, now it was, after all, all over, to sit down to a history lesson. And another thing made them not want to forgive Ernest Atkinson; and that was – his daughter.