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  • Waterland

  • By: Graham Swift
  • Narrated by: Christian Rodska
  • Length: 12 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (126 ratings)

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Summary

This brilliant and compelling novel is at once a lyrical description of the Fens, a fictional autobiography, and an impassioned defence of history. The narrator, an English schoolteacher, and his interior world of memories combine with the exterior world of the bleak Fenland landscape to produce a multiplicity of stories. Swift weaves together tales of empire building, land reclamation, brewers and lock-keepers to construct a chronicle that spans three centuries.

Waterland is simultaneously a family saga, a novel of provincial life, a social history and a story of adolescent love.

©1983 Graham Swift  (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Waterland

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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The idea was better than the execution

I listened to this having read in a film review that Christopher Nolan was influenced by this book. And you can indeed see the influences with intercutting narratives over multiple timelines.

So the book is an interesting literary exercise, but the story didn't engage me at all. I could also have done without the incest, eels, and smut in the second half of the book.

The narrator does the best he can with the material.

7 people found this helpful

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A picture of rural England

A intriguing story of generations living on the Fens. Quite deep at times, but I felt a real warmth towards the characters involved. It had a similar feeling to a wartime Ealing studios film. It could have moved more quickly at times, but that may have taken away some of the period atmosphere. Not a fast read, though engrossing.

6 people found this helpful

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Flat lands but no flat story

Where does Waterland rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Its not the best book I've listened to but it is riveting and a page turner

What was one of the most memorable moments of Waterland?

The description of the flooded fenland and the effect it had on the local inhabitants

Which character – as performed by Christian Rodska – was your favourite?

They were all done so well it is impossible to choose. Perhaps the narrator came over most convincingly

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

In a land of water where water rules lives, life is as unpredictable as the waters.

Any additional comments?

The way this book is structured is a little difficult to follow at first, but once used to the way of it, becomes an important factor in the suspense. A slight niggle for me was the end which I felt was a bit drawn-out. Otherwise a well written gripping story.

3 people found this helpful

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A slow burner. Atmospheric and tragic.

It took me a while to get into this story. It has an unusual format, part history lesson and part memoir. A long-serving, embittered teacher tells his life story to his pupils , one of whom is a rebel who questions the existence of history and the very possibility of a future for his generation.

Intercut with the teacher's personal history the narrative explores the history of the Cambridgeshire Fens and the inhabitants' constant battle against the weather and the elements. The subjects of mental health, genetic inheritance, incest, jealousy, class, religion, guilt and alcohol abuse are all utilised in this complex interwoven tale of two Fenland families. And there is a lot of information and reference to European eels and their importance in the Fens, which I found fascinating.

The importance of history and how it impacts the present is also explored. Do we value history or do we ignore its lessons at our peril?

The narrator did a terrific job and made the characters come alive. At the end of the book I was unsure whether I had liked it or not. But the story has lingered in my mind and has given me much food for thought and overall I have concluded that it was a challenging but satisfying read. I really enjoyed the pace of the story, its meandering style and the historical elements.

It is a book you need to concentrate on, but the effort is worth it.

2 people found this helpful

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Depressing

A long and depressing tale with a complex mix of recent and distant history in a jumble of timings.
Stories are started left and returned to like a jig saw puzzle where random areas are patched together.
Eventually the whole sad tale is complete. Life will go on but without either of the 2 families whose sad lives intertwine.
Maybe the story is really that history of ordinary people is as strange as great events The French Revolution say but all just ends in disappointment.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliantly narrated and fascinating story

I have recently moved to the Fens and this story has made me feel right at home. I absolutely loved it, beautifully written and narrated.

2 people found this helpful

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Woven words

A richly vivid tapestry of images and characters, brought to life by a compelling reading, it's almost a long lyric poem.

5 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

I can't recommend this book highly enough! Superb reading complimented the excellent story. Such rich use of language.

1 person found this helpful

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Sublime

From beginning to end this truly wonderful book evokes a mysterious magical disturbing world....beautifully read too..... smashing stuff

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Dark but brilliant

I remember struggling with the book, with story and subject matter that seemed almost overwhelmingly dark. But this narrator brought such reality and life to the 'history' - that I was gripped from first to last, even by the long passages about the fens, which other readers might find tedious, but which are in fact essential and atmospheric background setting. The ending is amazing, wonderful!

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  • Jamanosa
  • 09-12-20

What was that?

I can’t believe I have spent so many hours of my life that I’ll never get back listening to that nonsense. Pointlessness is the theme of this ridiculous story about literally nothing. Didn’t care what happened to anyone. Knew the ending at the beginning. The last scene— a suicide- took about 30 minutes too longer to explain. Ouch that hurt.

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  • Leslie M. FreudenheimAmazon reader
  • 25-03-20

Superb classic

Don’t miss this page turner 1980s classic on audible or otherwise. Unforgettable!
Read it now & be glad you did, tho not for prudes.

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  • Tamara
  • 30-11-19

Beautifully written story!

It is hard to know where to begin heaping praise on Waterland— the engaging story, gorgeous language, and fantastic narration by Christian Rodska all combine to make for a perfect and unforgettable tale and listening experience. This is wonderful escapism steeped in history and eels, lust and ale.

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  • Lauren
  • 28-07-17

It takes 2 reads, but the layers seem endless

If you could sum up Waterland in three words, what would they be?

layered, symbolic, internalized

What did you like best about this story?

The narrator. He tells the story as a memory and part internal conversation. He contradicts himself, because he is working through trauma. How the novel's structure mimics trauma is impressive and interesting to work through. The way he works through his trauma, the reader goes through it with him.

Which character – as performed by Christian Rodska – was your favorite?

No standouts. He does a good job making different voices for different characters.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It is best to, in order to pick up on the repetitions and parallels, which made the novel impressive.

Any additional comments?

The main plot is set during the narrators childhood, this memory is triggered by his current experiences. He frames the story with paralleled stories of the history of the Fens. At first, these historical stories are tough to attach to the main story--especially because of their lengths, but on the second read everything fits. It simply takes 2 reads.
The book questions reality and history--whether they are truly created and organized to distract us from the world's emptiness.

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  • M. Henderson
  • 18-12-15

Brilliant author, provocative style, great performance

In my second reading of this book, I also listened along (using whispersync). Graham Swift's flashbacks and flash forwards, with occasional historical interludes were fascinating and captivating. I think the spoken version alone might be difficult, especially for the first read. I recommend reading along.

1 person found this helpful