Graham Swift, Author . Knopf $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-307-26690-3

This splendid novel by Booker Prize–winner Smith (for Last Orders ) has its roots in the 1960s sexual awakening and takes place over the course of a sleepless night in June 1995. Paula Campbell Hook lies awake beside her sleeping husband, Mike, and worries about the shocking revelation that she and Mike will make to their 16-year-old twins tomorrow. Paula recalls her meeting with Mike at university in 1966, when sex was free and easy (“a glut of it”), the immediate consummation of their sexual passion, their marriage and successful careers, and the birth of the twins after almost a decade together. Mainly, Swift explores the ways in which secrets are created to ensure happiness, and the potential for emotional damage when the truth is revealed. Swift has channeled the tenderness in Paula’s voice with uncanny exactitude, granting her a mother’s sentimental observations about pregnancy and raising children. He drops a few clever red herrings, so the narrative retains the vibrato of suspense until the secret is revealed. But the novel’s remaining pages, which convey the exaggerated “doomsday” fears of middle-of-the night wakefulness, seem padded. In essence, this moving exploration of marriage and parenthood is a ringing affirmation of modern life. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/23/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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