Review – The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

The first interesting thing about this book is the nonlinear timeline, starts starts in post WW2 London, in 1947 and tells the stories of three women; Kay, Helen and Viv and one man; Duncan. All four character’s lives are in someway entwined but in ways that aren’t clear until you read further into the book. Working backwards, Waters drops tiny hints to give the read insights into each character’s life, like why Kay wanders the streets of London by herself, looking for something but not entirely sure what. Why Duncan lives with an elderly gentleman, the status of their relationship never fully explained.

Separated into three parts, 1947, 1944 and 1941, the reader is taken on a strange journey where bits of the puzzle slowly come together.

The second interesting thing about this book is that nothing much really happens, that it is entirely character driven. Of course there is the dark depression of post-war London and the horrors of the war itself but both of these aspects take a back seat to the characters. Which, if you connect or empathise with the characters immediately this is a great way of writing, but it can be difficult for readers who haven’t established a sympathy for the characters to read on.

This is a very different style to Waters’ other books, it’s quieter, and sadder. There is none of the erotic fiction that her other books have, instead it’s much more about desire and the pain of losing a love.

I really respect that Waters creates worlds where queer relationships are the norm, rather than something unusual or something to fixate on, in The Night Watch all but one of the relationships are queer and she writes about all of it so wonderfully that she is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

I was completely engrossed in this book from the very beginning, but I know that it might not be for everyone, it is a slow read, sometimes whimsical but also quite dark, quite sad, and because of the way the book is outlined, you know from the beginning how the stories end which can be frustrating for readers (like me) who like everything tied up nicely.

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