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[83] The Night Watch – Sarah Waters

The narrative goes backward in chronology: It begins in 1947 and slowly trickles its way backward through World War II, to the midst of air raids, to blacked-out streets, to crumbling houses, to food shortage, and finds four Londoners whose lives were at first not conceivably interwoven. The specious calm and stillness of the beginning and the monotony of life against the grim post-war backdrop belie some forthcoming twists with which Waters will pull to reveal the connections between them. The dodge more than the bombs–live in utter discretion to stifle any attention directed to them from their forbidden love. Their lifestyle is one that the world will never indulge.

So with this encroaching tension and discretion one slowly delves into the women’s lives. Kay is an ex-paramedic from the war whose tom-boy appearance often gives people an impression of a young man. Beneath the bravery with which she rescues victims and packs up charred bodies and limbless torsos, she desires a wife to pamper. Her love is so generous that one can feel trapped and suffocating. Helen falls in love with Julie under circumstances so awkward that she doubts her own integrity. She is constantly reeled by guilt and out of insecurity she always feel undeserving of other’s love. So her relationship often takes on an edge of panic, worry, fear and suspicion. She is torn between an intimate friendship and a tempted affair.

Helen’s colleague at the post-war match-making service, Vivien, is also tight-lipped about her private life. She is involved in an affair with a married soldier. She can’t help feeling sorry for herself when she has to hide inside a cupboard for a secret conversation on the phone with Reggie. They are afraid to be seen in the public that brief moments of intimacy will send them to dingy hotels tugged away in alleys.

As the novel gingerly unfolds over traveling backward in time, the hidden connections between these strangers become known. Their past, their lives, and the amazing coincidence in which they cross paths become so intriguing to read owing to the backward structure–sort of a reverse suspense. Until the layers peel off, one would not be able to appreciate how carefully tangled the novel is.

5 Responses

  1. Hey, I added you to my blogroll. Could you take a look and see if my site is worthy to be on your roll? 🙂

  2. The book is on my list … although I managed to read a number of books whilst away on a (rainy) holiday in France, I did not quite get to it – however, I like Sarah Waters and greatly enjoyed Fingersmith.

  3. I’m sure your effort to persevere will be paid off! 🙂

  4. I found your site by googling around for pages about The Night Watch. You and your blog readers might be interested in the online book discussion of this title that we at Brooklyn Public Library are facilitating at http://brooklynbooktalk.blogspot.com/. Come on over and share your thoughts!

  5. […] Also reviewed by:  books i done read, things mean a lot, Caribou’s Mom, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook […]

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