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The Night Watch

A book by Sarah Waters

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a story uncovered

  • Mar 10, 2010
I read the blurb on the back of the cover of this book and found myself intrigued by the idea that it might end with its beginning. My only reason for not reading earlier was that the book is long and I'm in a lets-read-short-books phase. But the story is actually split into three parts, so I fooled myself into treating each part as a short book, and then I couldn't put it down. I found I really did want to find out what a story told backwards would feel like. And I like the result.

The setting was certainly of interest to me--1940s London. I've heard of the air-raids from family members, of shelters, the sounds of bombs, the darkened streets. And there's quite a cast of fascinating characters, all nicely delineated. Occasionally I'd wonder, now where did I meet her, but only in the same sense as I might out on the street, soon realizing who it was and eager to learn what happened next--or what happened in the past. There were mysteries neatly set up in the earliest part, relationships with pasts half-told and the promise of learning more.

It's actually quite an interesting way to uncover a story, retreating through time and wondering. After all, we usually get to know who people are before we learn who they were. What intrigued me most was how complete the story felt when the mysteries were told, though the future stayed unknown. Like life, but in a good way.

In fact, the whole novel feels very complete despite the uncertain future. The characters have settled in my mind. I know them, more than I ever would in real life. I like them for all that they're not like me, and it's not just time and war that separates. I'm glad the world has changed and I hope it changes more, and I want the best for those who inherit their dreams.

[...] says the novel "chronicles love, sex, and obsession." It chronicles much more, and it invites the reader to know and understand in a way few novels can, by adding the danger of war and that aspect of change that unsettles enough to leave the mind half-open. I can smell the broken buildings, the ash and the dust, and see the gifts of childhood lost and torn. And I love this book.

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Sheila Deeth ()
Ranked #42
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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About this book


Waters beginsNight Watchat the end of her tale in 1947 and works her way backwards to 1941. Since she ensures that characters don't spoil the freshness of earlier events by leaking important information, the first part includes a series of conversations that coyly allude to the characters' pasts and make the narrative slightly difficult to comprehend. The feat of entering this tale aurally is compounded by having to follow three separate narrative lines, which Waters later connects with clever Dickensian precision. Juanita McMahon performs the work persuasively. What she lacks in vocal range, she makes up by endowing characters with accents and speech patterns to reflect distinctions of social class. She gives the character Kay's voice such deep Dietrich-like sexual innuendo that one wonders why her lovers abandon her. Recorded Books politely reminds listeners which disk they have started and repeats the last sentence of the previous. Both are welcome features. Despite the initial challenge,Night Watchis a skillfully written historical account of love of all persuasions trying to survive the dark prospects of London during the blitz.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to theAudio CDedition.
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ISBN-10: 1594482306
ISBN-13: 978-1594482304
Author: Sarah Waters
Publisher: Riverhead Trade

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