Friday, January 19, 2007

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Books Completed: 6
Completion Date: January 16, 2007
Publication Year: 2006
Pages: 470
Owned Prior to 2007
Shortlisted for Man Booker and The Orange Prize

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller.

This is the story of four Londoners - three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching . . . Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret . . . Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover . . . Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances . . .

Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the backdrop of feats of heroism both epic and ordinary, here is a novel of relationships that offers up subtle surprises and twists. The Night Watch is thrilling. A towering achievement.
This book was one of my Christmas presents to myself this past Christmas. I enjoy books that are set during the World Wars, so when I started to hear good things about this book, I knew that I was going to have to read it. I am very glad I did. The first book for the Chunkster Challenge, which means I have completed one of my goals for the month of January.

I am going to have to say, this is one of the more original books set during the Second World War that I have ever read. For starters, the majority of the characters in the book, both major and minor, are women. Many of the popular World War literature focuses on the men's side of things, so it was interesting to see women as main characters. Having never read Sarah Waters before, I think this book was a very good introduction to her. I did not really know what to expect, so the fact that the main characters were almost all women was something I expected, the fact that several of the characters are gay surprised me. I did not know that this was a staple of Sarah Waters writing because I had never read her before, but it was not a bad thing. I do not really mind the sexuality of the characters that I read, but I can see this book being not for everyone.

I am not sure who out of the main characters was my favourite. The four main characters are Kay, Helen, Viv, and Duncan. They all have a past in this novel, and with the writing style starting at the end and working backwards, you find yourself curious about how things turned out the way that they did. Kay is an interesting character. As is said several times through the book, she is looking for a wife, but luck does not appear to be on her side. She really is sweet, but she never seems to end up with what she is looking for. She also often gets mistaken for a boy because of her short hair and boyish style of dressing. She was the one that I looked forward to learning more about because when you meet her, she is nothing like she was earlier in the war. Helen surprised me, but annoyed me at the same time. She never seems to know what she is doing, and seems to be influenced a lot by the people around her. Then there is Viv, she is involved a situation common to the last century, but you cannot help feeling both bad for her and want to tell her to smarted up at the same time.

Then, there is Duncan. He is quite an interesting character to read about, especially as you read more about him the earlier years. He is at battle with his demons, and I am not sure that his story is ever clearly revealed, it is more something that you assume from the information that is presented. All the characters are interesting to read about, as well as the other characters that show up in the story because of the main characters. It really is a very enjoyable read, and a very good book to start the New Year out on. Worth every page.


Author Gender:
Male: 1
Female: 5

This was a new to me author.


  1. I'm glad to hear you liked this. I am looking forward to reading it--so far I have not read Waters, but I will be changing that this year!

  2. Yay! I'm so looking forward to buying and reading this this year!

  3. I've seen so many book bloggers reading this that I'm going to have to jump on the bandwagon!

  4. I'm a bit slow in commenting, but wanted to say that I enjoyed this book too. I enjoyed the female perspective on the war and the freedom that it allowed, especially in terms of sexual identity and gender roles. Interesting to see how some characters like Kay really thrived by being allowed to work in traditional 'men's jobs'.

  5. I haven't read this book although it's sitting on my TBR shelf, but I have read and absolutely loved her three prior books (Affinity and Fingersmith vying for top spot). I hope you read more by her!

  6. I actually plan to read another book at least by her this year. I can't for the life of me think of the title right now, but I am buddy reading it with a fellow blogger. I might look into getting some more of her books, though, as I REALLY enjoyed Night Watch.


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