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The Night Watch: First Impressions

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1lorannen
May 21, 2015, 10:40am Top

Thoughts on The Night Watch as you're starting to read? Read it before? Post them here!

Please hide spoiler-y posts using a "spoiler" HTML tag!

2PoetVictoria
May 27, 2015, 1:10pm Top

Finished 1947 and re-reading that section. I don't trust myself to read ahead without "spoiling." This helps to solidify the characters for me, as well.

3triciareads55
May 27, 2015, 10:12pm Top

Just started reading the first few pages, but with a few strokes of the pen Waters has given you a good introduction to the characters.

4HunyBadger
May 30, 2015, 8:45am Top

Never read Waters before. I thought it started slow and was surprised with all the LGBT references ...until I reread the OBLB intro again. *sigh* Serves me right for speed-reading.

Almost done with the 1947 section. I'm really loving the complicated characters and how Waters keeps parts of the story hidden from view (was this intentional to mimic her characters?)

5aulsmith
May 30, 2015, 10:41am Top

>4 HunyBadger: was this intentional to mimic her characters

Well, it's intentional, but whether it was thematic as you suggest or just a gimmick is hard to say. It was certainly too gimmicky for me.

6terrygraap
Jun 1, 2015, 6:15pm Top

This is the first book that I have read by Sarah Waters. I just finished the 1947 sections last night. I find that it is a very compelling read. I have found that the mixture of different characters bring a lot to the story. I enjoy historical fiction a lot but never have experienced it this way by going back in time. All the characters lead a mysterious life. I cannot wait to read the next section.

7mark.h.gregory
Jun 2, 2015, 10:34am Top

Here are some lengthy impressions from notes i have kept whilst reading.

Sarah Waters powerful sense of description, to me, rivals Dickens and Hardy. I feel and see the time, place and people sharply. And yet there are moments of humor not always expected (such as the Sweeney Todd/barber jokes in 1947:One.) I feel that descriptions of the commonplace objects, whether broken or whole, really complete the picture of the time we are being immersed in. The depth in the writing of these characters lives, through the description of the locations and time, is at times almost overwhelming to me. I love the voyeuristic, omnipresent point of view. This book seems to be a movie in words to me.

There seems to be a thread moving through the section of the need to keep sexual lives secret from others you meet in the society of the time. I this harkening back to the Victorian & Edwardian time a consequence of the conflagration just gone through by England and the Empire? This thread of hidden sexualiy and eroticism propels this section; along with the telling of the complications and relationships of our four main characters. I really liked the asides referring to the lack of courtesy and politeness on the street and in the inner worlds of London. These help to show what drives our characters in their movement through their lives.

I can't wait to have the back stories of our four be filled in more completely as we move backwards in time.

8gmori
Jun 2, 2015, 2:55pm Top

I read the 1947 section as soon as I found a copy in the library, and now can't remember my thoughts and reactions very well.

:)

I do recall the writing being generally pretty good, the precision of picking details of physical descriptions and emotions and thoughts well done.

I don't know if some readers might find the jumping between character's points of view distracting to the flow, and the author intentionally leaves out information early on creating mysteries to be cleared up as the story progresses, which is both a little confusing but also helps to make you want to read to clear things up.

The characters are nicely drawn though, and very clearly defined. I had a few minor quibbles which of course I can't recall now, and I was disappointed when I reached the end of the section to realize that we were going back in time next, and not forward. I have a slight interest in knowing how these characters came to be, but more in where they're heading.

I've held off reading on, but maybe I should go back and skim the 1947 section again. Hopefully more discussion will burble up.

9lorannen
Jun 2, 2015, 4:14pm Top

>8 gmori: Your point about the jumping between perspectives is spot on, though I must say it hasn't bothered me yet. After the first couple jumps or so, it's almost like they're running a relay, handing the baton off to one another when they meet. For example, we meet Helen and Vivian at their office, and then follow Helen to Duncan's house, after which we follow her to meet Reggie. From there we jump back to Kay in another part of town, but similarly out on the street.

I feel real movement in the story, even though you might say there's not a whole lot "happening," exactly.

10Ling.Lass
Jun 2, 2015, 10:48pm Top

I’ve been eager to read this book after having seen parts of the filmed version on TV on a visit to England a couple summers ago. I’ve now read the 1947 section. As we prepare to jump back in time in the next section, and with the focus on daily life in the aftermath of WWII London, I’m wondering how this book will compare to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life?

11aulsmith
Edited: Jun 6, 2015, 10:40am Top

>7 mark.h.gregory: There seems to be a thread moving through the section of the need to keep sexual lives secret from others you meet in the society of the time. I this harkening back to the Victorian & Edwardian time a consequence of the conflagration just gone through by England and the Empire?

I'm not sure what you're saying here. Homosexuality was still considered both a crime and a mental illness in Britain in 1947. You could be sent to an insane asylum or goal at hard labor. Of course people kept it a secret.

Edited to fix html.

12LynnB
Jun 6, 2015, 10:12am Top

The writing is wonderful and has really drawn me into the story. The telling of the story "backwards" is intriguing, and is reflective of how we often get to know people. We see them in the present, and over time, we learn their back stories.

13AnnaLily
Jun 6, 2015, 12:50pm Top

I was looking forward to trying this book group and read the first assigned section right on time. The discussion for the next few days was disappointingly thin for me -- I know, it depends on people like me to make it happen, but I wanted to lurk for a bit because I'm new to this book group and don't know the ropes. Frustrated, I gave in to my usual reading style and finished the book already. Sigh. I suppose I can follow along with the discussion to the end. I don't trust myself to write anything substantive because I know too much. Fail.

Are there other online book groups out there that would be a better fit for me? Thanks everybody. Enjoy the rest of Night Watch.

14kristilabrie
Jun 6, 2015, 12:58pm Top

>8 gmori: and >9 lorannen: I am intrigued by the structure of Waters's writing. I love how the story's being told in reverse, and I think it sets for really easy reading by jumping from character to character. Almost like the threads of the story are slowly being woven together, and I'm eager to see how they connect.

Knowing that the story's being read back in time, I'm watching carefully for any foreshadowing that might lead to the story's chronological past. Take, for example, the old mill Reggie and Vivian visit--the describing of the rusty cans, the silvery bottles, where someone had a fire...I'm curious to see if that pops up further along. It's definitely sparking my imagination about what might have happened there, if we'll read that any of the characters were there in the past, more-so than if the story was being read forward in time I think.

15aulsmith
Jun 6, 2015, 1:29pm Top

>13 AnnaLily: LT reading groups tend to make up the rules for themselves when they start, so keep scanning the talk posts for books you are interested in reading and then join in the preliminary discussion.

One type of book discussion, which we could do here, is where some people are commenting section-by-section, but there is also a spoiler topic where people who have finished can start talking. You could start a spoiler thread yourself, or ask kristilabrie to start one.

16gypsysmom
Jun 6, 2015, 9:43pm Top

I'm a little late to the discussion but I just got the book from my library. I'm not through the 1947 section yet but hope to be by tonight. I am dying to know what Duncan was in jail for and how Uncle Horace comes into it. Waters is brilliant at giving clues, just enough to hook us but not enough to spoil it. I'm looking forward to finding out more.

17kristilabrie
Edited: Jun 8, 2015, 4:32pm Top

>13 AnnaLily: what aulsmith said! Just use the "spoiler" HTML tag within the regular HTML arrows to join the discussion wherever you like.

Test: You can leave your big book secrets in a text string like this.

18aulsmith
Jun 8, 2015, 7:23pm Top

18: I know one person's historical background can be another person's spoiler, so I'll put this in a spoiler alert. However, these are really things that I thought Waters was taking as common knowledge when she wrote the book.

Waters is a lesbian. Being gay was illegal in Britain during the entire time this book takes place. Gay men, especially lower-class men were routinely arrested and put in jail during this period.

19elizajanecurtis
Jun 15, 2015, 9:19pm Top

I've just finished the 1947 section and I'm completely drawn into the story! Feeling a little impatient to find out more about everyones' back story. I see your point, aulsmith, that the backwards storytelling is maybe a little gimmicky, but I think LynnB has a great point - it also feels true-to-life, as we do normally meet people superficially at first and then as we spend more time with them, learn their back story slowly, in bits and pieces. We'll see how it holds up as we move back in time.
I really enjoy Waters' descriptive style. She brings in lots of ordinary-but-interesting details, and the characters' emotions feel entirely real and compelling to me.
I don't know a whole lot about life in WWII-era London, so I'm learning some history along the way.
Heading onward into 1944!

20piemouth
Jun 16, 2015, 3:46pm Top

I got really caught up in it and have finished it, but won't spoil anything. Will have more to say later I think. I"m still thinking a lot about it.

21imyril
Jun 26, 2015, 4:21am Top

I must admit I'm struggling to engage with The Night Watch (50 pages in). Kay intrigues me, and I'm determined to finish the 1947 section in the hope the others also flicker into life. Initially, though, while it feels very 'true' to post-war London in its detail, I've not found a hook to draw me in so far.

>18 aulsmith: I too assume Duncan was in prison for homosexuality, from his nervous response to Fraser when Mrs Alexander mentions Uncle Horace. But I'm familiar with the period / history, and I've read other fiction by Waters, so hard to say how much of this is suggestive without that background - if I weren't, I might have wondered about Duncan having been jailed for a con, although the way he presents he would have to have been a pawn rather than the mastermind.

22aulsmith
Jun 26, 2015, 8:01am Top

>21 imyril: To be honest, I don't even remember what he was actually in jail for (I was skimming pretty heavily by the end of the book). But I do think Waters expects her audience (British, glbt or at least open to glbt authors) to know about Oscar Wilde and how that influenced people up until the repeal of the sodomy laws and to at least suspect something about Duncan (and Uncle Horace for that matter). It's always hard to tell what people need to know to read an author's intentions.

23PoetVictoria
Jun 29, 2015, 5:26pm Top

WOW, I thought he was in jail for being a Conscientious Objector. Not sure if this should be a spoiler alert or not.

24imyril
Jul 8, 2015, 4:21pm Top

>23 PoetVictoria: Fraser was in jail for being an objector, for sure. I have actually abandoned the read as I was getting so frustrated by it, so my assumptions about Duncan may have turned out to be incorrect if I'd stayed with it!

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