The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The Night Watch was my first foray into Sarah Waters and I really enjoyed getting to know this world-famous lesbian author. Almost all of Sarah Waters’s novels have a clear lesbian agenda, and often from parts of history that are regarded as quite heterosexual (taking place before or during the first part of the 20th century). The Night Watch is no exception; the novel tells the stories of a man and four women (three of which has been or are in a relationship with each other) during and after the second world war.
What’s special about The Night Watch though is that it is told backwards. The story begins in London in 1947 and works backwards to the end in 1941. The storyline follows the fragmented lives and the strange interconnections between Kay, Helen and Julia, three lesbians; Viv, a straight woman; and Duncan, her brother, whose sexuality is ambiguous. The connections between them all their relationships are slowly unraveled through the backward storytelling. The war serves as a horrifying context, especially in the last part of the book from 1941, giving the atmosphere and relationships more gravitas and a sense of urgency. I especially loved learning about Kay’s ambulance job during the war and rooted so much for her. She was my favorite characters of all, the one that felt most true and honorable.
The book is quite slow, and despite the wartime settings, not an awful lot happens. But Sarah Waters’s writing is outstanding with a rich and detailed prose. Sometimes her writing is a bit too excessive for my taste, but it worked well overall. The ending was very unsatisfying though. Since the story worked backwards, there wasn’t really a proper ending to where the main characters were left off and I would have wished for an epilogue or something to tie up the many loose ends. Or maybe a sequel? But all in all, I’m glad to have found this interesting author and will certainly read more of her books.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Sarah Waters
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