I don't normally read war stories, and I don't think I've ever read a story that starts in one year and then keeps going back in time. This book starts in 1947 after WWII and ends in 1941. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would because it's similar to a mystery. There are allusions to the characters' past lives in the first section which piques your curiosity and then gradually as the story goes back in time the blanks are filled in. It can be a bit confusing. In fact, I'm thinking that I might want to reread the 1947 section just for clarification. But it is surprising to find that this manner of writing can be quite illuminating. I wasn't very attached to the characters at first, but I became much more interested in their lives as the story progressed. In fact, the story didn't really become a page turner for me until I was more than halfway through. So this story is a war story, taking place in London, with some love and some sex (both straight and gay). We get to be inside a prison. It seems that Waters has a special talent for describing life in asylums and prisons! She really does an excellent job of showing us the hopelessness and despair that can thrive in such places. So between the horror of war, the despair of prison, and the agony and the ecstasy in love relationships, the joys are few and far between. But did the story take me away from my life and at the same time make me feel thankful for my life? Yes! Did the characters come alive for me? Yes! The only thing the book didn't do is make me cry. I came close but I didn't really have a good cry as I have had while reading other novels by Waters. Glad that I read it, though.
What remarkable book! Sarah Waters is a literary marvel. This book is written Backwards -- begins in 1947 -- about 225 pages worth of full character development and plot evolution, then we get to 1944 ... for another 225 pages or so ... than to 1941 for a final 50 pages. When I had completed the first section, I was concerned that I might not care to continue. After all, I already knew "what happened." It is a tribute to Waters' genius that it took very little time to become fully absorbed in the details of the earlier developments. How does she do it? She sets remarkable challenges for herself, and comes through with aces, every time. What a book !!
I expected to like this book, but it was too tedious and confusing. There was nothing wrong with the research, although at times I felt like the author's preference for the Victorian era showed and influenced her perception of wartime and post-war England.
My big beef, though was the fact that the reverse plot didn't ever finish. Instead, it was like getting all the backstory without knowing where the characters were going. I struggled to find character development as much as it was just a tangled web of relationships.
I am a Sarah Waters fan. I have read 3 of her novels now and thoroughly enjoy them. She is an outstanding story teller. She has the ability to transport you into the time period and feel that you are living with the characters. The story takes place from 1941-1947 in London. It involves 4 main characters, whose lives connect in wartime London. Her descriptions of the bombings and rescues during World War Two are very vivid. You care about the characters she presents, and feel their pain with them as they experience losses. Strong women are portrayed doing difficult jobs such as ambulance drivers, rescue workers and mechanics because it is during the war. This is a story of relationships, historical detail and twists that will keep you interested from start to finish. The audio-tape is presented with English accents. It makes it even more real.
the first of sarah waters' novels i have ever read, tho of course i had seen bbc's brilliant productions of her tipping the velvet & fingersmith. i woke up one morning to an npr interview with the author about her most recent, the paying guests, which had apparently received glowing notices. Curious, i ordered the book, & b/c i wanted free shipping, ordered two more, including nightwatch.
about three friends in london--who also constitute a love triangle--just before ww2, during ww2 in the midst of the bombing blitzes, & postww2, about 2 years later. all not quite 40 but already concerned about being dubbed "spinsters," per the social norm of the day. beautiful young viv shd be included, though she had only once encountered one of the trio during a highly charged event in wartime, and who just might end up joining them in the present--which i hope she does. non-linear discontinuous narrative structure starts with the present that peels back to the past, brilliant in its deconstructed and economical way of explaining the relationship among the trio. parts subtly connect like pieces of a puzzle. julia's and helen's affair in wartime is framed between helen's impending separation from Julia in the present, and kay's "discovery" of helen in the past, just at the start of war. marvelous in her sensuous descriptions of love and desire, sw is equally marvelous at describing the realities of war-torn london and the broken up lives of its inhabitants determined to survive. "lesbian fiction"? nope. just great literature.
The Night Watch is about a small group of women and men, some of whom know each other and some who do not, whose lives become connected during World War II. Some are homosexual, at a time of less tolerance than our own. The book also deals with abortion in that time.
The book picks up the characters' lives in the years just after the war and then fills in the rest of the story by returning to the war years, during the bombing raids on London. For me this was an intriguing way to structure the book.
This is my fourth Sarah Waters novel and she has never disappointed as an observer of human beings, a master of suspense, and a depicter of history.