Magazine article The Spectator

Why Did She Do It?

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Did She Do It?

Article excerpt

THE LIGHT OF DAY by Graham Swift Hamish Hamilton, L16.99, pp. 243, ISBN 0241142040

We have had to wait seven years for Graham Swift's latest novel. Was it worth it? The hero of The Light of Day might think so. George Webb shares the patience of Job. He is prepared to wait eight or nine years until the woman he loves is let out of prison and re-emerges into the light of day. It is hard to understand the nature of his obsession. Firstly, he has only met Sarah a couple of times before she is jailed for murdering her husband. Secondly, his fixation seems to revolve around her knees. Am I alone in thinking knees are the most unerogenous part of the body? But it is a testimony to Swift's skills as a novelist that he makes Webb's fixation seem plausible. Love represents solace for the past as much as hope for the future.

George Webb has lost his wife and his job. Thrown off the police force for throttling a suspect, he becomes a private investigator in Wimbledon snooping on adulterers. It's 1997, and two years to the day since his client Sarah killed her gynaecologist husband. Webb visits Sarah every fortnight in prison, lays flowers at her husband's grave, and slowly, painfully reconstructs the past leading up to that fateful day. Sarah had hired George to go to Heathrow and watch her husband bid farewell to his Croatian mistress. She wants to be sure that the mistress gets on the plane. Her husband returns home for dinner only to be stabbed by Sarah when she sees the look of desolation on his face. …

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