Friday, January 9, 2015

The Night Watch

Sarah Waters is one of those authors who make tough things look very easy.  I have read all of her works now, except for her very newest novel, and she has pulled off wonderful tricks and effects in each book.

The Night Watch is possibly my favorite of her books.  I think this is likely due to the structure, which starts in 1947 and then follows the end backward through to its start in 1941.  I am thinking the same story, told chronologically, would not have had the same effect, would not have been as poignant.  Which is a little mind-bending in and of itself.

The title is referring to the third shift ambulance work that the main characters engage in during the bombings of London in WWII.  When Waters takes us out with Kay and Micky, the mood and feel is just amazing.  The same for the times we spend with Duncan in prison during the bombing raids.  Supremely eerie.

But the real gem, the passage that just takes the cake, is the 1941 section that gives us Alec.  An action that drives so much of the novel.  Most authors wouldn't have taken us as far along the path as Waters did.  The action would have happened off-stage, probably because another author wouldn't have been able to handle it as well.  This part reminds me so much of Robert Frobisher's character in Cloud Atlas.

I also thought it was a brilliant move to make some typically male faults a part of Kay's character.  

Final call:
If you are going to jump into Waters, I'd probably choose this book first.  It's got all of the Waters hallmarks without too much grinding miserableness.  And I'm still, apparently, a sucker for a non-linear plot.

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