Booklist, 15 May 1985

"The Sweet Shop Owner"

by D.G.R.

[from Booklist, 15 May 1985]

This addition to Graham Swift's library coming over from Britain is as carefully developed and psychologically compelling as the previous offerings. (Although the most recent of Swift's books to appear in the U.S., The Sweet Shop Owner is his first novel and appeared in England in 1980.) Set in the 1930's, it concerns Willy Chapman, the sweet-shop owner, an undistinguished Englishman who marries a wealthy and beautiful but emotionally aloof young woman. Four decades worth of social changes are eloquently reflected in the narrative, which leads to Chapman's daughter's 1980's rebellion and her betrayal of her father after her mother's death. Swift deftly sets up the irony and cruelty of the estranged daughter caught in the act of looting her mother's belongings when Willy arrives home early one day. Crushed but passive, Willy waits for her to finish and flee a final time. A haunting quality makes Swift's first novel a memorable one.

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