Shuttlecock (novel)

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First edition
Author Graham Swift
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Allen Lane (UK)
Washington Sq. (US)
Publication date
1981 (UK), 1985 (US)
Media type Print & audio
Pages 224
ISBN 0-7139-1413-0

Shuttlecock was Graham Swift's second novel, a psychological thriller[1] published in 1981 by Allen Lane. It won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1983 and, following a period of ups and downs, was released as a film in 1993.


Prentis, junior assistant in the 'dead crimes' department of the police archives in London, starts writing a personal memoir almost inadvertently. It is in response to his growing alienation from his wife and children; to regular visits to his estranged father, who has recently become catatonic and is in hospital; and to the confusing situation at work where he suspects his boss, Quinn, of suppressing crucial files in a case he is asked to investigate. Eventually it emerges that the files concern a friend that his father has betrayed and a blackmailer who claimed to have evidence that his father was not the World War 2 war-hero he claimed to be. Quinn is approaching retirement and has been grooming Prentis to see if he would make a suitably humane successor. Now he gives Prentis the choice of whether Quinn should destroy the files in question. When he agrees, he is guaranteed promotion. At the same time he loses his sense of inferiority to his father and manages to rescue his family situation at home. He has come to the conclusion that the impressions we make are fictitious. His father’s story of his work as a spy in Nazi-occupied France, passages from which are interspersed with Prentis’ own narrative, was created to hide the real truth about himself. Prentis, in his turn, is now creating a new version of himself in order to conceal his own weakness and uncertainties.


  1. ^ Logotheti, Anastasia. "Shuttlecock". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 16 August 2004 accessed 15 May 2017

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