Study Guide

The Light of Day

by Graham Swift

The Light of Day Essay - Critical Essays

The Light of Day

The most striking feature of The Light of Day is the modernistic technique applied to a conventional private-eye plot. George Webb, middle-aged private detective and discharged police inspector, is taking the day off to visit a former client serving a prison sentence for murdering her husband and to place flowers on the victim’s grave on her behalf. Through Webb’s stream of consciousness we gradually learn that Sarah Nash hired him a few years earlier to shadow her husband, who was committing adultery with a beautiful Balkan refugee they had taken into their home.

Webb regarded it as just another ho-hum divorce case until he fell in love with his client and she surprised him by murdering her husband with a kitchen knife after the infatuated man had regretfully sent young Kristina back to her Croatian homeland from Heathrow Airport, sacrificing personal feelings to honor and duty. Now in the present, covered in Webb’s single November day, the detective is haunted by remorse and guilt while determined to wait out the eight remaining years until Sarah will be released and they may hopefully resume their brief but passionate love affair.

London-born, Cambridge-educated Graham Swift at age fifty-four is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most important writers. He has published six other novels and a collection of his short stories. The Light of Day shows he deserves his reputation as a master of modernistic narrative. It is an interesting example of the widespread influence, the amazing endurance, and the ongoing evolution of the pulp- fiction private-eye novel pioneered by authors like Raymond Chandler.

Review Sources

Booklist 99, no. 14 (March 15, 2003): 1254.

Kirkus Reviews 71, no. 5 (March 1, 2003): 345.

Library Journal 128, no. 4 (March 1, 2003): 120-121.

New Republic 228, no. 22 (June 9, 2003): 30-33.

The New York Times, May 2, 2003, p. E40.

The New Yorker 79, no. 11 (May 12, 2003): 111.

People 59, no. 22 (June 9, 2003): 44.

Publishers Weekly 250, no. 13 (March 31, 2003): 39.

San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 2003, p. M1.

The Spectator, March 8, 2003, p. 36.