Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (Jill)

The Night Watch
By Sarah Waters
Completed December 19, 2008

Sarah Waters swept her readers away with a tale of love, war, betrayal and hardship in her historical novel, The Night Watch. Set against a backdrop of bomb-ravaged London during World War II, this novel explored the lives of four young people – Helen, Vivian, Duncan and Kay – plus their lovers, friends and acquaintances – as they coped with their daily lives on the home front.

Waters structured her novel using a backward timeframe, so that as each year unraveled, you learned more about each character and his/her secrets. The first section was from 1947, and admittedly, this was the hardest section for me to get through. The characters were introduced with very little connection to each other, but I got the sense that their secrets and relationships were somehow woven together. As the book progressed, Waters shined a little more light on each character and story, putting each piece of her puzzle carefully together. It was a brilliant story structure – one that only a talented writer like Waters could pull off.

Each character was developed into an unforgettable person – one you worry about, sympathize with and root for. The Night Watch is considered lesbian fiction, which does not make this a book for everyone, but I found the women’s relationships to be compelling and insightful.

This is my first book by Sarah Waters but certainly won’t be my last. Short-listed for both the Booker and Orange Prizes (and understandably so), The Night Watch was a fantastic look at the lives of young people affected by a terrible war – and how they made the best and worst of these times. ( )

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