The Night Watch

The Night Watch

I had thought about reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters but had never quite got round to it, so was pleasantly surprised to find it so totally gripping and completely absorbing.

I knew it would be right up my street in that it is set in three different time periods around World War Two and focuses on strong female characters. The conjuring up of London streets in the blackout made me feel that I had experienced them myself. I loved the narrative device of starting at the end and working backwards. It was very powerful and once you start approaching the end you already know that you want to go back to the beginning to read it all again, now that you know how the characters lives together began.

It was so well written I was completely transported into the book and found myself looking up slightly bewildered to find I was in a hotel room, or on another occasion on the Paris Metro, and felt like I had to almost physically pull myself out of the book and back into the present moment. I had to give myself breaks when reading it as I found that I was reading faster and faster – it felt a bit like having a slightly breathless conversation that has gone on for hours.

It developed a horrible sense of momentum and (spoiler) the scene when someone nearly dies after an abortion gone wrong was so hard to read I had to keep stopping. It left me feeling physically queazy.

The description of the devouring power of jealously was fantastic and the balance of power in the love triangle was simply and factually laid out, leaving you feeling how absurd and wasteful it is that people end up in love with people who are themselves in love with someone else. One sentence from the book sums it all up:

‘But, isn’t it funny – we never seem to love the people we ought to, I can’t think why…’