I stayed up all night recently with Tomorrow, a new novel by Graham Swift, which we’ll publish in the summer of 2007. This is actually one of the real treats of my job, getting to read in manuscript, before a lot of other people have the chance, the work of a novelist as fine as Graham. But still it was funny: there I was, sleeplessly turning the pages of a deceptively simple domestic novel, which takes place in the head of a woman lying awake beside her sleeping husband from midnight to dawn. “Domestic” in Graham’s hands is not quiet in any regard. All night I found myself talking back to his book, much in the way that I wanted to talk back to Carol Shields‘ last and so powerful novel, Unless.
The woman is sleepless because “tomorrow” she and her husband are going to have to tell their sixteen-year-old twins something she worries is going to completely change their family life. All the risks and fleeting joys of marriage and family twine around your throat as you read: the high stakes of loving anyone, particularly the same person for decades and decades; the inevitability of losing people; the shaky bulwark of a marriage bed; how you actually raise your children in order for them to leave you happily.
I can see Graham, when he tours, having to fend off interviewers who want to tell him stories of their marriages, because there is something in this novel that makes you want to confide in it. He says that the book, when it gets down to it, is about a lot of things, but most of all about happiness. Such a tough subject, really, and so surprisingly, refreshingly and confidently evoked by one of the most thoughtful, subtle and accomplished fiction writers I know.