Silence

Alan Hollinghurst

  • Shuttlecock by Graham Swift
    Allen Lane, 220 pp, £6.95, September 1981, ISBN 0 7139 1413 0
  • The Frights by Nicholas Salaman
    Alison Press/Secker, 170 pp, £6.95, September 1981, ISBN 0 436 44085 7
  • March House by Mary Hocking
    Chatto, 222 pp, £6.95, August 1981, ISBN 0 7011 2586 1
  • The Missing Person by Doris Grumbach
    Hamish Hamilton, 252 pp, £7.95, August 1981, ISBN 0 241 10660 5

In his moving first novel The Sweet Shop Owner Graham Swift illuminated the history of one man through flashbacks on the last day of that man’s life. Through the succinctly evoked provincial decades one of the engrossing features was the difficulty of love and of communication between generations, even within a family – a problem which threatened, at a local level, the transmission of a sense of history or a justification of the past which Swift so perceptively re-created. At the crisis of the novel, the separate lines of memory and present action converged in the riveting description of a running race in the principal character’s childhood, recalled during his last faltering walk. In Swift’s second novel, Shuttlecock, narratives of two generations are again developed in tandem – but with a more exhibitionistic cleverness; and again the failure, or, at best, distortion, of communication between fathers and children is witness to the compromise of ideals – often an ideal of nature – which should have transmitted themselves in a sense of the past.

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