one-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
By: 
Graham Swift
user_rating: 
0

A-TomorrowOn the night of June 16, 1995, Paula Hook, an art dealer, cannot sleep. Tomorrow, she and Mike, her husband of 25 years, will reveal to their teenage twins a secret that will change their lives forever. As Paula lies awake thinking about the revelation that will redefine her family, she wants her twins "to know everything, the full, complete and intricate story." Thus begins a monologue in which she describes meeting Mike at the university (and their fiery sexual passion), their loving marriage and successful careers, their errant cat, the joy their twins brought to their lives—and her own realization that perhaps the news she and Mike will break tomorrow forged happiness at the expense of lasting emotional damage.
Knopf. 255 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0307266907

Boston Globe 2 of 5 Stars
"If one can forget the premise of the novel, its darkly guarded secrets … then the background retrospective of Tomorrow is often a gentle and evocative story. … There are a couple of passages toward the end of the novel, when Paula is finishing up her memories, that hold all the emotional depth and magnitude that Swift possesses—particularly one day at the beach when the twins were small, when the perilous cost of human attachment very nearly came due." Gail Caldwell

Guardian [U.K.] 2 of 5 Stars
"Like all of Swift’s narrators, she talks the way that people actually talk—sometimes to no seeming purpose—and our expectations are slowly flattened by this, until something more interesting begins to emerge. … The stories Paula tells about how her children came into the world are the more engaging for being modest." Anne Enright

Independent [U.K.] 2 of 5 Stars
"Perhaps Paula is delusional. Is her life so content that she feels the fragility of it, and perversely has to manufacture a drama of monumental size?" Carol Birch

Herald [U.K.] 1 of 5 Stars
"Part of the problem is the monotonous tone of his narrator, which is so unrelieved it simply grows tedious. No wonder Mike is snoring." Rosemary Goring

Los Angeles Times 1 of 5 Stars
"Chekhov once famously observed that if there’s a rifle over the mantelpiece in the first act of a play, the gun must go off by the third act. But Swift litters the stage with time bombs and live ordnance, all of which explode with less pop than a champagne cork." Michael Mewshaw

St. Petersburg Times 1 of 5 Stars
"As a purely human piece of writing, Tomorrow fails. … I couldn’t help thinking that if I happened to be one of Paula’s kids reading her testimony, I would happily jump to the last pages to know what was happening. The announcement, when it comes, is not all that it is cracked up to be." Vikram Johri

Washington Post0.5 of 5 Stars
"Maybe I’m a prude, but ‘your Daddy’s sweet and gathering rhythm’ is a phrase that I could live without. … It’s enough to make one question the propriety of a male author trying to write in a woman’s voice. All of these needlessly intimate details are spilled out in a misguided sense that her teenage children will ‘want to know everything, the full, complete and intricate story.’" Ron Charles

Critical Summary

Bad books sometimes happen to good authors. Despite compelling themes—the unpredictability of life, the ways we mask emotional trauma to produce happiness—Tomorrow failed to muster praise from even the most generous of critics. After building up a doom-and-gloom scenario, Graham Swift led reviewers to expect a tragedy of monstrous proportions—perhaps the children are aliens or the parents serial killers. None of these scenarios panned out, leaving critics feeling deflated upon learning the truth. A monotonous, repetitive (if often insightful) narrator and gratuitous sex scenes that a mother would never share with her children likewise blindsided critics. Ah well.