Chapter summaries and more notes >>>>NOTES>>>>
Graham Swift now has a number of novels to his credit – I’ve read two, ”Final Orders” and Waterland,” prior to Wish You Were Here and found them both to be wonderful. But as far as I can see he does seem to be a one-theme author – how history (personal or non) affects our lives through time, memory, points of view – in other words the past affects us. That said, I am SOOOO glad I finished this book – it may be his best – although perhaps tied with Waterland.
In Wish You Were Here Jack Luxton, an ex-dairy farmer turned resort keeper, waits for his wife who is out in their car while a storm rages. Jack has his shotgun ready on the bed. This is the frame for what happens in the rest of the novel – the reader is flashed back to this situation as it progresses.
The rest of the book is comprised of all the threads which lead up to that situation in the bedroom. Chronology is of the essence to Swift so the events are presented in pieces and entirely out of order so the chronology builds like a plot strand the reader has to put together.
The book is about being stuck in the past vs escaping it. Swift uses verb tenses very effectively to denote past, past perfect, present, future even future perfect (“would have to”) (“might have …”) It helps keep things straight as to when they happened as related to where things are now, etc. in this winding novel of the past and memory. Much of the narrative is a kind of stream-of-consciousness with a changing time frame of reference.
An overarching metaphor is the cows -caravans analogy.