The Night Watch – Sarah Waters
January 27, 2010 § 26 Comments
She supposed that houses, after all – like the lives that were lived in them – were mostly made of space. It was the spaces, in fact, which counted, rather than the bricks.
I don’t know if there’s anything I can say about The Night Watch without betraying the fact that I absolutely loved it, and that I’ve just found myself another favourite author in Sarah Waters.
Set in London during the 1940s, The Night Watch tells the story of mainly 4 people. The story starts in 1947, after the war has ended. We’re introduced to Kay, a somewhat masculine-looking woman, living as if without a purpose. We then get to know Duncan, a young man who works in a factory. He brings his Uncle Horace to the place where Kay lives every week, for his Uncle Horace needs to receive some form of treatment from Mr Leonard, the landlord of the place in which Kay lives in.
Duncan has an elder sister, Viv. She has a secret that she doesn’t tell anyone other than Duncan: she is seeing a married man. Viv works at a place with another woman, Helen, who also has her own secret: she is seeing a woman.
That’s about all I can write about the book without giving anything away, and all of that is actually revealed within, I think, the first 20 pages or so. Maybe a little more.
The story is told in reverse. Starting in 1947, we get to know the characters and how their lives have turned out to be after the war. And then we are brought back a few year to 1944, right smack in the middle of war, and there we are shown just how it is that our characters managed to end up the way they did. As if that weren’t enough, we’re brought back yet another few years, towards to end of the book, to 1941, just a little bit before war took to London, and some parts are finally introduced.
I was completely – com.plete.ly – absorbed into the book. I was turning page after page after page, just willing the story to reveal more to me, tell me more about the characters. I’ll have to admit here, that I had a special place in my heart for Kay, and I just kept wishing there was more to read about her.
And then when I was somewhere near the end, I suddenly felt the need to pace myself. I just didn’t want it to finish. And when I got to the end of the book, which was more like the beginning of the story, I wanted to go back and start all over again.
It was that good.
Reading it was like tearing my heart up into a million little pieces, then trying to put them back together again. Everything was described so clearly, so vividly, I swear I could almost look up and see the dark streets, and smell the smoke and dust. Waters could go for pages describing the scenes, but at the same time, these physical descriptions are exactly what lead up to a very emotional explosion.
Sometimes I would think, I know what’s going to happen (since the story’s told backwards), but it felt like knowing what would happen only built up the anticipation of it. And when it does finally happen, it doesn’t happen as you thought it would have, characters don’t react the way you thought they would, and you’re reminded again that you’re just completely at Sarah Waters’ mercy, and you have to learn to expect the unexpected.
So. So. Amazing.
For: LGBT Challenge, Orange Prize Project
Note: Now I don’t know if I should dive into the next Sarah Waters novel, or if I should let this sizzle, and spread out my reading of her work. She’s only got 5 novels out, she takes an average of 2.5 years to write a novel (took her 4 years to write this one!), and she’s not planning to start on her new novel till next year. I think I’ll spread it out. As far as I can hold out. I have completely fallen in love with her now.