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.
©2006 Sarah Waters; (P)2006 Time Warner AudioBooks
"A truthful, lovely book that needs no conjuring tricks to make you want to read it again." (Observer)
"Brilliantly done....A tour-de-force of hints, clues, and dropped threads." (Independent on Sunday)
This wonderful novel explores the lives and relationships of a handful of women and men in post-war London. The writer has created very realistic, believable characters; as a reader I felt I really got to know them and cared about them. The structure of the book is very effective, as it moves backwards in time to reveal how the characters met and what has brought them to this point in the story. This adds a nice touch of suspense. Sarah Waters brilliantly recreates the atmosphere of London during the blitz and in the years immediately following the war. I didn’t want the book to end, which for me is always a good measure of a novel.
I bought this book because I had been looking for a fictional novel focussing on Londoners during WWII. In this, I suppose I was always going to be disappointed.
This is the story of four people living through the war, but I suppose I'd been expecting more detail of life in London - especially given that the summary mentioned Kay driving ambulances. However the book focuses very strongly on the personal lives and problems of the character, as opposed to the overarching theme of war.
The queer themes were completely unexpected, but not unwelcome, I'm always on the hunt for some good queer lit. and was pleased to find some set in an era long past.
The problem, I feel, was twofold - one, the characters were, for the most part, difficult to relate to and their inner monologues often lead me to dislike them, and two, the story seemed to drag to the point where very interesting moments became dull and unending.
The narrator did a superb job. I was a little unsure of her performance when I began the audiobook, but as the story progressed I began to feel that her reading suited the book very well.
I did my best to complete this novel because I did enjoy the plot, but in the end I simply couldn't make myself continue listening. Perhaps I'll pick it up again one day, I rather hope I do for the sake of completion, but if I do I don't doubt that I will find it just as difficult to complete as I have this time.
A word to Johannes H... Thank you so much for making me aware of the dangers of falling on books depicting "these kinds of relationships"; I mean with all the titles offered on this site, and no warning at all, I might inadvertently fall on a heterosexual novel! ...
What an incredible narration feat from Juanita McMahon! I don't know how many characters there are in this book, but the voices, men and women, young and old, of all classes are rendered superbly. Moreover, the dialogues are spot on!
I hear the BBC is working on a TV version... Hope it's half as good as this audiobook is!
I thought this was excellent. I like Sarah Waters' books and I've read all of them, and I only wish that there were more available as audiobooks; I find that listening to a book that is well read gives new understanding to a work. Juanita McMahon is a very good reader. I have sometimes had the impression when listening to an audiobook that the narrator really doesn't understand or appreciate what he or she is reading, but that is certainly not the case here.
One of the really good ones.
I bought this Title because it was classified as historical. The story of four girls and a boy's survival of the second world war, I thought this is a topic that's not explored much and was interested.
There was No mention in the summary of lesbian relationships, the main topic of this book!
So with out being discrimanating I would like to mention that not all people like reading about this kind of relationships, so if this is your interest you in for a ball!
"Atmospheric and gripping"
This is really good listening and I would thoroughly recommend you download it without delay. The backdrop to the characters is the war and life on the home front. As a reader you are uncertain what will happen, and this parallels the uncertainty that the characters have about their future. What if we die tomorrow? What if we don't? It is amazing to think about how people managed any kind of normal existence with bombs and buildings falling all around them. Yet here we see that for some the war also provided more freedom, and an escape from convention. People falling in love, falling out of love, people questioning the boundaries of relationships, people discovering who they are. A gripping story unravels ....
"A wonderful listen"
A wonderful listen: The Night Watch
This is a wonderful listen - atmospheric and beautifully read. The most remarkable aspect of the book is the incredibly detailed description Sarah Walters gives of London during the bombing, and how sympathetically she describes the suffering and anguish of the characters. Throughout, I kept wondering whom she had talked to and how she had found out so much about what it felt like to live through that time. Most interesting of all is the way in which she subtly makes the reader reflect on how important the 1940s were for the way that people's lives changed because of the war. Although she never makes any overt statement, you feel that the characters, many of whom do not conform to social norms, were able to live freer lives than before the war and that attitudes towards them, after the war, would gradually change. Waters is excellent on people's little embarrassments. She describes how women did not like being seen going to the lavatory and how, when at work, they were not allowed to go to the lavatory except at specified times. These details, and the details about makeup and the petty tyrannies of the typing pool are what make one feel she must have talked to people and not just read about what it was like to live at that time. There are so many questions one would like to ask the author, that the interview with her at the end is a real disappointment, focusing on her schooling and sexuality rather than immense learning and her wonderful evocation of people and a period of which she can have had absolutely no personal experience.
This is my first foray into Waters territory, and what a wonderful experience it was. At first I found the atmosphere a little gloomy and overcast, the characters rather macabre, but I was soon won over by the sheer brilliance of the writing. Waters ought to be used a paragon in all creative writing classes. The woman does not put a foot wrong. Her language, while never flamboyant, is so perfectly poised that reading her words is like watching a film, so exactly do they conjure up what she is describing.
The characters were so vivid, so unforgettable, so wonderfully human, that I felt quite bereaved when I came to the end. But even more compelling was Water's evocation of wartime Britain, and London during the air raids. It was truly like being there yourself.
In short, quite, quite wonderful. Merits every superlative you can think of.
And a word for the narrator. I've listened to quite a few audiobooks and this was by far the best narrated of any, by a huge margin. McMahon's ability to distinguish a huge cast of characters through voice and accent is unparallelled, and she is one of the few female narrators who can do a man's voice utterly convincingly. A virtuoso performance she should be sincerely proud of.
"Good characters and atmosphere"
I was somewhat wary of this book given the author's championing of lesbian and gay fiction. However, I was pleasantly surprised because the 'sexual relations' content of the story is almost indidental. There are several central characters each of whom is constructed in a fashion that makes them not only believable but worthy of the reader's emotion. Emotions run strong throughout the book and are bolstered by a very tangible environmental atmosphere built with a superb eye for detail. The reader/listner can really feel the 'grubbiness' of the time and the lack of quality of life. However, the stociscism of those living at that time really comes through givng a real flavour of what life was like both in the war years and in the immediate post war period.
The book is superbly read giving life to male and female characters alike (dare I say a rare trait with a female narrator?!). It provides for an engrossing read/listen, primarily beacuse of the richness of the characters rather than the strength of the story. I have some doubts as to whether the device of utilising a reverse timeline really works to best advantage, but that might be a matter of personal taste.
In sum, the book is certainly a recommended listen not least on account of the strong characterisation and the excellent narration.
Wonderfully engaging characters; I loved the way details were gradually revealed, mysteries explained and misconceptions corrected.
I was taken aback when I realised that we were going backwards in time. Once I'd adjusted to that, though, I found this to be a fascinating meditation on how the characters reached their rather dull starting points - and of course, an interesting depiction of the way WWII affected ordinary people in Britain.
"Slow but steady ... tends to leave you behind"
This was a rare occasion I 'set aside' an audiobook to listen to another one before taking it up again when I had run out of others. It isn't a bad book, it is just slow. It is hard to engage with the characters (despite the narrator's myriad of 'voices') and although I had started to engage more after a few hours listening, I still found myself drifting in places and I would come back to the book having missed 10 minutes.
The characters were mostly low-key and self-effacing, which while it might have been true to that time period and may well have reflected social attitudes accurately, didn't gve me much incentive to switch on the next time.
"Weird and compelling"
I'm really glad I heard this as an audio book rather than reading it, otherwise I might have been tempted to skip back and forwards to try to work out what the heck was going on. The reverse timeline was possibly a bit too clever, but dealing with effects before causes did give the story an unusual kind of depth.
Particularly compelling was the author's depiction of a relationship that is falling apart, and the weird little things people do when the worst happens.
"I never wanted it to end"
This book is so atmospheric that I never wanted it to end.
My mother was a child at the time that the main characters were young women, but the values and experiences of this generation reverberated down the decades and I felt a real connection to the characters and their experiences. There is so much detail about what it was like to be living your life during and after the second world war that I was captivated. It felt like English roots. It was really fascinating to hear the experiences of these women in the 1940's ... a wonderful book.
btw, I also loved Fingersmith, but I liked this even more.
"The Night Watch"
This book seemed to start quite slowly, and I wasn't sure where it was heading. By the time I finished listening to it I was gutted it was over!
The quality of the narration is second to none, I have listened to hundreds of hours of audiobooks and this is the best story teller I have experienced!
"Lesbian love in the Second World War"
It took me a while to get into the book as a large number of characters are introduced in the early chapters, but gradually I began to follow the various players in the narrative and the interactions among them. The book tells the story backwards starting in the austere post war year of 1947 and works back to 1941. There's not much of a narrative thread, but one is kept listening by the rich day to day detail of the characters' lives as they struggle to cope with the fears and privations of the time and to find happiness in their personal relationships.
I thought the great strength of the book was the vivid evocation of what the war was like for people living and working in London. The book reminds me a bit of Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time, but slanted to more to the lives of ordinary people and with a bias to lesbian relationships. Lesbian love scenes are quite graphically described and, not being lesbian, left me unmoved, but it did make me realize how tedious heterosexual love scenes of main-stream literature must be for gay people!
Most of the book is worthy of five stars, but I down-graded my rating as I thought the beginning was too slow and confusing and might put some off continuing. I'm not entirely convinced that the retrospective chronology was an effective device.
The reader of this marathon book is outstanding and really brought the character alive for me.
There's an interesting interview with the author at the end of the recording.
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