Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"So this, said Kay to herself, is the sort of person you've become ..."

Next up in my attempt to remedy the fact that, until recently, I hadn't read any Sarah Waters books is The Night Watch. This is a somewhat hefty book (thought I wouldn't call it a chunkster at only 524 pages) but I rushed through it in just a couple of days, intrigued by the unique story structure and drawn in by the well-developed characters.

This is a book in three parts -- beginning in 1947, moving back in time to 1944 and then concluding in 1941. The main characters are Viv and Helen, who work at a post-war matchmaking agency, Duncan, who is Viv's younger brother, works at a night-light factory and has been to prison, and Kay, a lesbian who appears to be entirely alone and aimless. What could have been an overly tedious journey through the lives of these men and women has instead become a series of moments that create the people that you meet at the beginning of the story. Then things that you might have assumed are proved wrong and characters that you might have liked are proved to be weak, selfish or worse when you finally learn about their pasts.

I have heard both good and bad opinions of this book. I am definitely on the side that enjoyed the story and found it to be a very strong novel. I didn't find it to be boring or confusing and I appreciated the decision to tell it in such a unique timeline. It also turned out to be very interesting to read this book so soon after the Henrietta novels. Where those represented the war as experienced by English villagers and was bittersweet and funny, this was the gritty and gruesome story of those in London, living through the worst horrors of the war and trying to navigate life after it. I will admit that I am exhausted by WWII right now, though, and this is part of why I will be escaping into fantasy for a while.

Exploring the intersection,

Support our site and buy The Night Watch on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.


  1. This has been on my shelf for ages I think because of its size so its good to know that its a quick(ish) read. I think I'll enjoy it so I'm looking forward to reading it.

  2. I know what you mean by exhausted by WWII. I seem to live and breath it at the moment with my WIP.

  3. I'm kind of overdosing on WWII at the moment myself -- I need to take a little break and read something from a totally different period or country, maybe China.

    I've only read one of Sarah Waters' books, Fingersmith, but I thought it was amazing, but I really want to read more of her books. As soon as I make some more progress with the TBR pile!

  4. I must give this book another try.

  5. I've not read a waters book since Fingersmith. I shall have to rectify that. And La Rue arrived today!!! Thanks so much!

  6. So yeah, The Night Watch is one of the less heartwarming books about the Blitz that I've ever read. But I love it anyway! It's my second favorite Sarah Waters book after Fingersmith.

  7. Jessica - I was surprised at how quickly the pages flew by. It was all plot and little description.

    Al - I'm glad you understand! I think it's that I can't help but acknowledge that it all actually happened to someone.

    Karen - A break is a good idea! And now I just have one more Waters book left--Affinity--which I'm really looking forward to but I might save it until the RIP Challenge!

    Tracy - How far did you get into it the first time? What kept you from reading on?

    Jenners - This one is less twisty than Fingersmith -- more of a slow heartbreak than a dagger in the chest kind of thing. ;) And I'm glad that La Rue got there! I hope the Little One loves it!

    Jenny - Certainly not heartwarming but I felt it captured the mood perfectly. I think I would rank them The Little Stranger, The Night Watch, Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet. I wonder where Affinity will end up!

  8. I only read the first four or five chapters, Kristen. It was a few weeks before Christmas (2006!) when I borrowed it from the library, a really busy time of year for me both at work and family, and I had a really bad attack of bronchitis as well (which is why I remember the year - my bookclub friends all remember it too - the year I lost my voice at our Christmas Party!), so I had little time to read, was feeling awful and wasn't in the mood for it, and I just didn't get into the book and didn't find any of the characters that likeable, though admittedly we'd only just been introduced to them all. I've enjoyed all of the other Sarah Waters books I've read, so maybe I ought to give it another try.

  9. Tracy - The characters definitely aren't very likeable so I can imagine that it was made worse by your illness and stress. I hope you do try it again though! And I've just heard that Waters is working on a new book!