It has been my turn to choose ‘The BookRabbit Book Groups’ read this month, and I chose Sarah Waters ‘The Night Watch’ because it has been on my TBR for well over a year. IN case any of you are wondering what BookRabbit is then go to http://www.bookrabbit.com/ and join, it’s a wonderful and very sociable book lover’s site and forum, it seriously is brilliant, join, join.
So I had chosen ‘The Night Watch’ and have not long put it down and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t love it, but I definitely enjoyed it. By the looks of it sadly not that many of the other BookRabbit readers feel quite the same way. My only other dabble with Sarah Waters has not been ‘Tipping the Velvet’ or ‘Fingersmith’ those joys are still to come. No, my first Sarah Waters was ‘Affinity’ her lesser known novel which is a dark creepy gothic novel which I really loved and I think is more deserving of Man Booker and Orange nominations. So that and the fact that ‘The Night Watch’ has been so hyped might lead to why I would give it 4 out of 5 and not full marks.
Sarah has deviated from her usual Victorian romps to the wartime of the 1940’s. This diversion is an effortless one as I was totally in the moment of the novel and never once felt that what I was reading wasn’t real. Things like the rarity of coffee, the explosions of bombs, to the cost of silk pyjamas, Sarah had clearly researched the background to the novel down to the smallest details. Now to add to the change of time of her novel, she also decided to write it backwards.
The funny thing is when someone tells you that a book has been written backwards it instantly makes you think that a book is going to be really hard to read and this isn’t, it’s delightful to read. It also makes you think that the author has done something incredibly clever, which they have, but then again books told in flashbacks are quite common and also the fact that the start of the book was actually the end meant that obviously you knew the ending from the off and somehow that didn’t work for me. There is something delicious about digging through characters pasts and she still managed a few twists and surprises which is no mean feat it just left me feeling like I didn’t need to get involved so much.
All that aside, I did enjoy the adventures of Kay, Helen, Viv and Duncan although I never really liked any of them. Each one had a very interesting history and you didn’t always know what was coming which was great. The characters were believable and the story of sexuality in that time was really interesting to read about. There was one issue I had which was with Duncan (Waters first gay male character) and his back story which was utterly harrowing but was almost written in an overly calm way when I can’t imagine that you would feel calm about such things. Hard to explain when you are trying desperately hard not to give the ending away.
Despite the fact I have just criticized the book a bit I did enjoy it, in a market that’s so full of books about the war this is something different and Waters should be highly commended for this work, I’ll be really interested to see what she does next, and will be happily reading the two Victorian romps in the meantime.