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The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

The Night Watch (2006)

by Sarah Waters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6291371,451 (3.68)1 / 529
  1. 60
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (withwill)
  2. 10
    Fault Lines by Nancy Huston (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: Both employ reverse chronology to tell a story with its roots in WWII
  3. 00
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (rstaedter)
  4. 00
    Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (debbiereads)
  5. 00
    The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison (mrstreme)
  6. 00
    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (ebr_aumkw, kgriffith)
  7. 13
    The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (kiwiflowa)
    kiwiflowa: both have female protagonists and are about the London Blitz during WWII

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English (130)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All (137)
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London WWII — people in wartime London connect
women, men — strange encounters during war time

This is the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching. Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret. Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover. Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances…
  christinejoseph | Dec 29, 2016 |
My favorite Waters! ( )
1 vote laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
"She went down the steps and started to walk. She stepped like a person who knew exactly where they were going, and why they were going there— though the fact was, she had nothing to do, and no one to visit , no one to see. Her day was a blank, like all of her days. She might have been inventing the ground she walked on, laboriously, with every step."

The Night Watch was not what I expected. I don't like war time stories. There is very little I enjoy about the gory detail or historical arrogance that often accompanies war time stories. Instead The Night Watch, although set in London between 1941 and 1947, did not focus on the war but explored the stories of a small group of individuals whose fates intertwine by chance against the backdrop of the London bombings.
And as it turns out, The Night Watch is one of the finest character studies I have ever encountered.

In fact, I guess the story could have been written against the backdrop of other eras and other societies and still maintain its relevance as a depiction of the struggle of moral integrity surrounded by betrayal - however small it may be - and of acts of kindness in a world of destruction.

“She supposed that houses, after all - like the lives that were lived in them - were mostly made of space. It was the spaces, in fact, which counted, rather than the bricks. “

As with Waters' other books, the writing is compelling. The pace of the narration thrives on detail. Detail is important.

“Helen opened her eyes and gazed into the luminous blue of the sky. Was it crazy, she wondered, to be as grateful as she felt now, for moments like this, in a world that had atomic bombs in it—and concentration camps, and gas chambers? People were still tearing each other into pieces. There was still murder, starvation, unrest, in Poland, Palestine, India—God knew where else. Britain itself was sliding into bankruptcy and decay. Was it a kind of idiocy or selfishness, to want to be able to give yourself over to the trifles: to the parp of the Regent’s Park Band; to the sun on your face, the prickle of grass beneath your heels, the movement of cloudy beer in your veins, the secret closeness of your lover? Or were those trifles all you had? Oughtn’t you, precisely, to preserve them? To make little crystal drops of them, that you could keep, like charms on a bracelet, to tell against danger when next it came? “

I do not often re-read books, but this one will be one of the few that I will be sure to come back to. It is also one of those very few books where I really wish the main character was real.

Amazing book.

Review first posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/1021989/the-night-watch ( )
1 vote BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
ÛÏSometimes I sit through the films twice over. Sometimes I go in half-way through, and watch the second half first. I almost prefer them that way ‰ÛÒ people‰Ûªs pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures.‰Û

Sarah Waters takes an audacious approach to her fourth novel. The initial setting is 1947, when Great Britain is still recovering from the damage of World War II. We meet four unfulfilled Londoners: Kay, a former ambulance driver, wanders aimlessly around the city, unsure of what to do with herself. Duncan, a pretty young man, has a dull job in a factory and lives with a shady older man he calls ‰ÛÏuncle.‰Û His sister Vivian seems stuck in a languishing affair with a married man. She works at a lonely hearts‰Ûª club with Helen, who fears that her relationship with another woman is coming to an end.

The twist is that the story moves backwards in time. The first shift is back to 1944, just before the Allied victory, but still a time when Britain is being bombed by Germany. The second shift is to 1941 during the very worst of the bombing. In this innovative way, Waters reveals how her characters came to be in their present circumstances. It‰Ûªs really ballsy, so I was disappointed when there wasn't much of a payoff - at least, I thought there wasn't.

Outwardly, not much happens in the first part of The Night Watch. Characters go listlessly from day to day, relieved that the war is over but missing the sense of purpose it gave to their lives. They have guarded conversations that hint at past love affairs as well as traumatic events. It's very much what Eddie Izzard calls "a room with a view of a staircase and a pond." The real meat comes in the middle, where their backstories are told. I probably would have felt more satisfied with the novel if it had ended there, but for some reason Waters decided to go back another three years, and there are no revelations to compare with the second part. And of course, while some hope of happiness is introduced, I want to know what happens next!

As always, lush and lovely writing from Waters. Three and a half stars. ( )
  doryfish | Aug 15, 2016 |
I took up this book as I’d just read another set during the Blitz and had already read a novel by Sarah Waters. This one, though, didn’t appeal much to me. While going backwards in time produces some effective parts with the reader having the benefit of hindsight, other consequences, like the lengthy wait to find out why Duncan was in jail didn’t work so well.

While the setting was absolutely rooted in the Blitz, the human aspect was much more in the different relationships, ones which I found myself not so interested in, not perhaps because they were mainly same sex relationships but because I found them almost clichéd in their ups and downs.

The page and a half of Waters’ sources for the setting shows how much research she did and leaves me wondering about what her priorities were. Did she want as much realism as possible for her setting? Is this what authors should provide in their fiction? This focus on historical accuracy leaves me uneasy about what I think should be a greater priority in a novel – creating a way for the reader to gain fresh insights into themselves and society. ( )
  evening | Aug 10, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Watersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Acqua, Giancarlo Dell'Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Adler, SigalTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Almazán, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
中村有希訳Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bingül, FigenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brandt, BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Camp, Marion Op denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danielsson, UllaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Defossé, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dewey, AmandaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
藍涓Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gawlik-Małkowska, MagdalenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houstrup, VibekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Κορτώ, ΑύγουστοςTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parés, NúriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puchalská, Barbora PungeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Voss, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vujačić, PetarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, GabrieleCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Сафронова, АлександраTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Lucy Vaughan
First words
So this, said Kay to herself, is the sort of person you've become: a person whose clocks and wrist-watches have stopped, and who tells the time, instead, by the particular kind of cripple arriving at her landlord's door.
"But, isn't it funny -- we never seem to love the people we ought to."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The book under this ISBN is by Sergei Lukyanenko. Please do not combine it with the one by Sarah Waters.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159448905X, Hardcover)

Sarah Waters, whose works set in Victorian England have awards and acclaim and have reinvigorated the genres of both historical and lesbian fiction, returns with novel that marks a departure from nineteenth century and a spectacular leap forward in the career of this masterful storyteller.

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit liasons, and sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch tells the story of Londoners: three women and a young man with a past-whose lives, and those of their friends and lovers, connect in ways that are surprising not always known to them. In wartime London, the women work-as ambulance drivers, ministry clerks, and building inspectors. There are feats of heroism, epic and quotidian, and tragedies both enormous and personal, but the emotional interiors of her characters that Waters captures with absolute and intimacy.

Waters describes with perfect knowingness the taut composure of a rescue worker in the aftermath of a bombing, the idle longing of a young woman her soldier lover, the peculiar thrill convict watching the sky ignite through the bars on his window, the hunger a woman stalking the streets for encounter, and the panic of another who sees her love affair coming end. At the same time, Waters is absolute control of a narrative that offers up subtle surprises and exquisite twists, even as it depicts the impact grand historical event on individual lives.

Tender, tragic, and beautifully poignant, The Night Watch is a towering achievement that confirms its author as "one of the best storytellers alive today" (Independent on Sunday).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Set in 1940s London, this story follows four characters - Kay, Helen, Viv and Duncan - as they deal with their everyday lives, set against the backdrop of World War Two.

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