©2006 Sarah Waters; (P)2006 W.F. Howes Ltd.
"Through all the turmoil on the world stage, the characters steal moments of love, fragments of calm and put their lives on the line for great sex and small kindnesses." (Publishers Weekly)
"Readers will be tempted to return to the beginning of Waters' elegant novel after turning the final page to fully appreciate the depth of the characters and their connections to each other." (Booklist)
I've just recently become a fan of Sarah Waters. I've also just started listening to audio books as well, so this was a completely new and refreshing experience for me.
The story is set during WWII in England. Previously Waters has set her books in, say, the 18th century England. What I've found interesting is that the book is written backwards. Yup. Backwards. The first part you listen to is after the war, then during the war and finally the story ends at the beginning. Fascinating.
Some reviewers have stated that they had trouble discerning which character the story jumps to. While there were a few spots where I found myself confused, I was able to figure it out in no time and resumed enjoying the book. Others have stated that the book starts slowly. Yes, perhaps this is true but you must understand that the book starts where most would end; at a period of reflection. I've found this helpful because it lets me get to know the characters a little bit better.
Also, I was thrilled with the narrator! At first I thought this was because it was my first time listening to an audio book but upon purchasing and listening to another I found I was wrong. This narrator has done a fantastic job with assigning each character their own voice and putting emotion into them.
All in all, it was a fantastic read.
I was disappointed. The writing is lovely, and the ways in which the characters come together and overlap is clever and poignant. However, the structure of pulling a million threads together works better when the reader can physically flip back in a book and remind herself who is who and what is what. Also, the editing was simply awful, as major scene shifts occurred without the narrator taking a breath. You went from character B finishing a sentence he was saying to character A, and without an visual or auditory warning, charcter C and D pick up instantly. VERY annoying. I liked it enough to want to read rather than listen to it.
A good narrator can make even a mediocre book come to life. When a great narrator meets wonderful writing, magic happens. To me, this book was such magic.
A majority of the characters are gay, so if that bothers you, this is not the book for you. However, if you see people as people, and love as love, then I highly recommend it.
Although this book was slow to start, and depressing at times -- for who wants to read about the final days of a love affair? -- my appreciation for the book's structure only increased as the tale progressed. The characters that we meet in 1947 are revealed to us, bit by bit, as the author follows them backwards in time, to 1944, and then 1941. In retrospect, the reader is forced to re-examine her opinions about the characters. Though I never did understand what made Kay and Julia fall in love with Helen--she seemed like the least sophisticated of the three--the contours of their love triangle shifted and re-arranged themselves as the narrator followed them back in time. Similarly, offhand phrases uttered in 1947 are explained when the narration follows the characters backwards in time; we understand, for example, that the immense loss that one character suffered was due not to the war, but to betrayal. Objects that hold a mysterious significance in 1947 -- a worn gold ring, a luxurious pair of pajamas -- become linchpins of the story when they make later appearances in 1941 and 1944. These details kept me listening, and made this book an exploration of time and meaning, as well as wartime and forbidden love. The narrator had an excellent command of British regional accents, which made for a delightful listen.
Four stars to the book and five stars to the reader, who adds much to the content with her skill in assigning accents to the many characters.
The narrator is one of the best I've listened to and further enhances a wonderful book. The story follows the intertwined lives of several people during World War II in London. Remarkable.
I am one hour and 46 minutes into the book and have stopped. So far, the author has carefully and eloquently described a multitude of boring daily tasks of various people, without capturing my interest at all. Unfortuneately, I bought it the day before the previous review was posted.
I read the reviews before I downloaded this and, because they were mixed, hoped for the best. Truth is, I'm surprised I got through it, but was working on a project so didn't have time to look for something else. For me, it never got going. Overall, it was just mildly sad and substantially uninteresting . . . . .
I liked Fingersmith, loved The Little Stranger, and hoped for a lot more from The Night Watch. I see that Sarah Walters wrote this novel with 3 goals... goals which she does indeed accomplish, but none of which are too concerned with plot: 1) Portraying daily life in WW2 London with surprising and interesting detail 2) Gay storylines 3) Diving deeply into her characters lives... even the most colorless details. There really was very little plot. If you fall in love with her characters, you may love the book. I liked the characters, but I was bored a lot and needed more. There was one scene I liked because it was concerned with human nature and personal awareness... it's where an older, wiser character schools a younger character regarding "the cinema"... I wanted more like that. I also wanted a plot, and I would have loved a thoughtful surprise like the answer behind The Little Stranger.
I love when authors interweave stories of various characters, and Sarah Waters does a great job of this. The lives of the four main characters (as well as some side characters) end up fitting together in ways you would never expect, giving you insight into a single story line that ties them all together. However, I was still somewhat unsatisfied at the end. The connection that brings everything together just doesn't seem significant or worthy enough. I keep wondering if I missed something.
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