Read Nattvakten by Sarah Waters Online


Hösten 1947 vandrar en ensam kvinna i eleganta manskläder genom det krigshärjade London. Under kriget var hon ambulansförare, nu är hennes liv betydligt mindre dramatiskt. Kay har fått se saker som ingen borde behöva se, och liksom för de flesta som tvingades uppleva blitzen är hennes liv för alltid förändrat.I Nattvakten får vi möta fyra Londonbor, tre kvinnor och en ungHösten 1947 vandrar en ensam kvinna i eleganta manskläder genom det krigshärjade London. Under kriget var hon ambulansförare, nu är hennes liv betydligt mindre dramatiskt. Kay har fått se saker som ingen borde behöva se, och liksom för de flesta som tvingades uppleva blitzen är hennes liv för alltid förändrat.I Nattvakten får vi möta fyra Londonbor, tre kvinnor och en ung man, som alla på olika sätt har drabbats av kriget. Förutom Kay finns här den vackra Helen, som tvingas smyga med sin kärlek, och hennes arbetskamrat Viv, som känner det som om hennes liv håller på att rinna ifrån henne. Och så Vivs bror, den till synes naive Duncan. Skickligt vävs deras levnadsöden samman i en berättelse om hjältemod, förbjuden kärlek och det vardagliga livet som trots allt måste gå vidare....

Title : Nattvakten
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789127114401
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 444 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Nattvakten Reviews

  • Violet wells
    2019-04-13 22:44

    Henry James once said novels deal with the “palpable present-intimate” and the two novels I’ve been reading this month, this and The Way Back to Florence, are both massively successful at enthralling through an intimacy of observation. Both novels are set during WW2, both are superbly researched, soundly constructed, character-driven and intelligently eloquent without indulging in any literary sleights of hand or innovative technique. In short, both are excellent examples of riveting straightforward storytelling. The Night Watch is the first Sarah Waters I’ve read. As I said, it’s straightforward storytelling but with an architectural quirk - each part goes back, rather than forward in time. Therefore, instead of finding out what happens to her characters, we discover what made them the people they have become. Waters forces us to think back through the war and the effects it had on her people. This elegiac motif is set up early in the novel when the lonely Kay enters a cinema halfway through the film, watching the second half first - "I almost prefer them that way - people's pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures." Rather as Elizabeth Bowen did in The Heat of the Day Waters creates a wartime atmosphere in which women, despite all the horrors, thrive in newfound freedoms. And also like The Heat of the Day the novel’s tension line is kept taut by secrets. In fact the novel is a continuing disclosure of the kind of secret intimate moments that define the secret’s keepers. The characters are fabulously drawn, pulsing with intimate life. There’s Kay the ambulance driver during the Blitz. Viv, in a staling relationship with a married man, works in a dating agency. Her brother Duncan is in prison – here the backward trajectory of the novel cleverly holds back the mystery of his crime until near the end. Julia is a crime writer and Helen works with Viv at the dating agency. Waters does a marvellous job of bringing that period to life. Again like Bowen she creates an almost hallucinatory atmosphere of bombed London in which, ironically, the physicality of life is all the more poignantly emphasised. Waters is brilliant at creating consequential moments through her attention and lively evocation of physical detail. Her attention focussed on “the shadow in which the detail of so many things can be discerned which the glare of day flattens out” as Virginia Woolf said of Henry James. London in the Blitz becomes like an unexplored landscape.The Night Watch is probably a bit too long – Waters overindulges dialogue at times as if she has a problem curbing the exuberance of her characters – and the male characters were a bit anaemic compared to the rich and full bodied female ones but it’s a gripping read written with extraordinary vividness and lots of heart.

  • Sabrina
    2019-04-11 23:05

    Reading a Sarah Waters novel is like eating a pomegranate. Sweet exotic fruit. However, you have to be patient in order to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

  • Julie Christine
    2019-03-28 02:42

    This is such a touching, sober and tender novel. The setting is London: the story begins in 1947 and works backward to end in 1941. The story weaves through the lives of a handful of women, some of whom had tedious office jobs, others the grim work of driving ambulances or sorting through the rubble of destroyed homes, but all bravely assisted their fellow citizens through the messy, tragic business of living in London during the war. After the war, these women seem without tether and are once again bound by the invisible ropes of sexism and classism from which they were nearly freed by the upside-down world at war. A major theme of the novel is the growing recognition and acceptance of homosexuality. Some these women find comfort and intimacy in each other, yet the homosexual encounters of one of the males characters is shrouded in shame. Lesbianism is treated in such a loving but clear-eyed way; the freedom these women had to turn to one another during the war seems to dissolve to shame and confusion once society's rules settle back into place. What I appreciated most about this novel was the realistic post-war world that Waters created. It wasn't all joyful reunions and breathless bonhomie. WWII gave many European and American women a sense of purpose, important jobs, skills, a grasp at their own physical and intellectual power outside of the hearth. That they could resent the return home of their husbands, fathers, brothers is a secret shame that Waters acknowledges and tells quietly through the voices of these flawed but brave souls.

  • Kate
    2019-04-12 20:50

    I struggled with my rating on this one. It seems sad to give only 1 star to what feels like an author's greatest effort to date. And I did end up liking one of the characters a little.Oh well.Luckily, this book improved after the first 250 dreadful pages. But isn't that a long time to wait for improvement? See my earlier comment for the defects of the book's Part One (takes place in 1947). Part two, set three years earlier, is certainly less boring, but only because the war was still on, not because the plot or characters became more interesting.I continued to get the impression that the characters didn't inhabit their environment so much as they were transported there against their will. For all her mentions of ration books, warning sirens, etc., Waters utterly fails to make 1944 London come alive. Furthermore, the prose is not strong. The only bold images were things that need no embellishment to be vivid - bombs, abortion, hemorrhage.While more readable than Part One, Part Two still fell short of interesting, and Part Three, set in 1941 and only about 30 pages long, was sloppy and predictable.

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2019-04-23 23:49

    It is perhaps not the best of signs that, unprompted and without my copy of this book beside me (because I am writing review at work.... naughty, naughty), I can barely remember the names of any of the principal characters. This may be a sign of two things:1. My ailing memory due to incipient old age2. The fact that this books characters were not potentially striking or memorable enough to lodge them firmly within grey matter like a sort of post-reading word shrapnel.Because no one likes to admit getting old, I am going to go for option number two m’lud and plead that despite having previously enjoyed The Little Stranger and Tipping the Velvet, both of which are by Sarah Waters, this will not stand out for me as the most memorable example of her award winning literary outputsSet during the London Blitz of WWII the book moves around in time like Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure. Instead of picking up Socrates-dude, or Napoleon, we’re on a mission to meet Viv, Kay, Helen and their selected group of LGB friends and relatives, all of whom are doing more than ducking for cover in the black-out. This is an alternative look at life in war-time London and a reminder that despite the whole “stiff upper lip” and the advice to keep calm and carry on, people were still living their lives, falling in love, having affairs and suffering from all the neuroses of social conscience that plague us today.

  • BrokenTune
    2019-04-17 23:07

    "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:

  • Lacey Louwagie
    2019-04-25 23:58

    I had this book pushed on me from someone in my building. I didn't really mind because I saw it was by Sarah Waters who wrote Tipping the Velvet, but I wasn't particularly excited to start this one. I finally cracked it open because said neighbor is moving out soon and I wanted to get it back to him before he left. Now I feel sad that I have to part with it.I loved this book. It follows the lives of four people backwards through World War II. It begins post-war, in 1947, and you meet these characters who all have some sort of secret or mystery from their pasts. Rather than have the secret "come out" as the story progresses, Waters takes you literally back in time so that you see how the past unfolded while knowing what the consequences ended up being in the future. The result is that you stay strangely in the moment and have a sad sense of premonition as you read the ending first. Although most of the characters are gay, Sarah isn't writing a novel about the "gay" experience of World War II, just quietly illuminating the lives of gay people living through the war like everyone else. Sarah pays special attention to the nuances of desire, guilt, and regret. Her characters are carefully and finely drawn and her dialog is heart-wrenching in its honesty. Sarah's writing has matured so much that, as much as I liked Tipping, it feels like pure fluff next to this.

  • Ferdy
    2019-04-04 22:55

    SpoilersReally loved the first third of the novel, the rest not so much, it wasn't bad, it was just unsatisfying. There wasn't a proper ending to where the main characters were left off in part one of the story, I wanted an epilogue or something to tie up the many loose ends. -What's What: Split into three sections, the first part of the story set in 1947 London, the next in 1944, and the final part set in 1941. Focuses on four main characters (Kay, Helen, Viv, Duncan) who have survived the war and are in some way connected to each other. -The POV characters were decent enough, I found them all at least somewhat engaging, not all of them were likeable though. Helen especially was irritating and hard to like, her jealousy and obsessiveness when it came to Julia was ridiculous. I wouldn't blame Julia if she had been having an affair so she could escape from Helen's needy-suffocating-controlling ways. It also would have been karma if Helen was cheated on after what she did to Kay. Viv was a total idiot, her years long affair with Reggie was appalling. I was quite shocked she stayed with Reggie after he knocked her up, took her to a back street abortionist and left her when she was bleeding to death. How could she take him back when he'd done that to her? It was unforgivable that he ran when she was pretty much dying. How could she think he loved and respected her after that? He did nothing to show it, she was such a fool to keep seeing him. It was also distasteful how little Viv cared about Reggie's wife and kids, she really didn't give a thought about them. I hope she got a spine and some self respect and finally ditched the loser. I did like Viv's relationship with her brother though, it was sweet how she stuck by him when the rest of the family didn't really want to know.-I had mixed feelings for the structure of the story, what with it unfolding backwards. It was great to read how each character related to one other and how they came to be where they were. However, I was disappointed with not knowing what happened to the characters after 1947, as interesting as some of the characters pasts were, I was actually far more curious about where they were heading and whether they would find some peace and happiness. Did Viv finally dump Reggie and find someone new? Did she find a job she enjoyed? Did Kay ever get over the war? Did Duncan escape Mr Mundy and do something with his life? Did Helen stay with Julia even though she knew she was no longer loved? Was Julia actually having an affair? Did Helen keep self harming? I wanted to know more about their futures, their stories felt unfinished. -The various wartime jobs the characters had were one of best elements of the book for me, I especially loved reading about Kay's ambulance/paramedic sort of job, her going out on call outs and interacting with the injured/the wardens/the police etc, her work was rather fascinating.-Loved the wartime and London setting, it gave the atmosphere and relationships more gravitas and urgency. If the story had been told in modern day, I probably would have found most of the relationships shallow and ridiculous.-There were parts which were far too slow and detailed, all of Helen/Julia's interactions (particularly in 1944) were needlessly drawn out. I kept rolling my eyes at Helen's descriptions of Julia, at one point I actually shouted out 'just fuck already' - it was just so unbelievably painful to read about Helen's excessive longing for Julia.All in all, I liked and hated the backwards sort of narrative. I enjoyed guessing how all the characters ended up where they were and how they were connected to one another, but I really wasn't impressed with the main characters more or less being left in the middle of their present day (1947) story. I needed at least some resolution to the many issues and problems they were all facing.

  • Lucy Banks
    2019-04-02 01:57

    An ambitious, clever concept, just ever so slightly muddled in places.I love Sarah Waters' writing style. She has this uncanny knack of bringing characters to life by using the unsaid as much as the said - and that's an impressive thing to carry off. Most of her books I've really enjoyed, and this was no exception, though I did have some minor reservations. Firstly, let's outline the story. It travels backwards through time (from the aftermath of the Second World War to the start of it), and follows several characters: Kay, who is ever the gentleman and seems destined to be taken the p*ss out of by her girlfriends, Helen, who seems anchorless and rather lost, Julia the enigmatic, cold author, Duncan, who is painfully vulnerable and relatively defenseless in virtually all situations, and Viv, who is having an affair. All the lives seem woven into one another, as we travel back in time, learning how they met / separated, and the traumas and trials they've endured in the past. It's an enormously clever approach to a novel, and as always, Waters' rich cast of characters and locations pulled me in right from the start. Every aspect of London in the 1940s is portrayed with confidence and conviction, leaving the reader feeling as though they're right there in the action. However, I wouldn't say that the ingenious concept quite paid off, because there were a few times that I was a little confused (especially at the start), and also, there was information that was omitted at the start (the 'later' scenes) that didn't feel quite authentic - it seemed unlikely that it wouldn't be mentioned, and seemed to have been withheld deliberately, in order to prolong the reader's interest. Whilst this is fine, it would have been better if it hadn't been so obvious. But overall, I thought this was a great novel - if you're a fan of her previous books, it's well worth reading.

  • MishaMathew
    2019-03-29 22:50

    It took me an extraordinarily long time to finish this book. I could not get into it at first. On the top of it, discovering The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R Martin diverted my attention further away from it. When I finally came back to The Night Watch and gave it another try, that's when I started to appreciate the quiet beauty of this book. The Night Watch is absolutely different from the other Sarah Waters books I've read - Fingersmith, Affinity and The Little Stranger. There are no shocking twists and turns, no supernatural elements and no edge-of-the-seat suspense.The Night Watch is the story of four people in WWII London. The story moves backwards starting from 1947 till 1941. I found this book to be more emotionally charged, more realistic as compared to Fingersmith or The Little Stranger. Even if this doesn't capture the reader's attention immediately, I would still say that The Night Watch is one of the best World War books I've read. The author's description of London during the second World War - the deaths, the bombed out streets and houses, the daily life - is poignant and moving. Since the story moves backwards, it was interesting to see how it began and how the characters are connected to each other; but I do wish we had been given more of how the characters ended up. Still, that's a minor complaint and doesn't spoil the book. Though not a favorite Sarah Waters book, The Night Watch is definitely worth a read, if you are interested in this time period.

  • K.E. Coles
    2019-03-30 01:00

    Fabulous writing as always from Sarah Waters. However, I found it really difficult to relate to any of the characters except Duncan - a troubled soul whose story I found by far the most interesting of them all. I'd have liked to have read a lot more about him and a lot less about Helen/Kay/Julia. As for Viv, I couldn't understand her being with Reg in the first place, so her relationship with him became hugely irritating. Reading's always subjective, of course, but this one didn't work for me.

  • Bill Khaemba
    2019-04-10 23:04

    “Why is it we can never love the people we ought to?”I need more of Waters historical books, she is such a talented writer her ability to showcase world war 2 through the eyes of ordinary youngsters was immersive and well executed. She propels the narrative forward by creating such vivid and disturbing scenes and raw emotions from the characters during this awful period.The Story follows 4 perspectives set in 1940s London during world war 2.Kay: An eccentric young girl dressed in boyish clothes who is searching and always restlessHelen: Insecure about herself and her current relationship while trying to hide her sexuality from the public eyeViv: Hopelessly in love with her Soldier boyfriend in a very toxic relationshipDuncan: (Favourite Character) After a dark childhood he is desperately trying to normalise his adult life whilst fighting inner demons.“life is crap but, every day is an experience” I would warn you not to go into this book expecting a fast-paced war written narrative from soldiers but a character drove narrative with the rich complex discussion surrounding emotions, self-destruction, LGBT themes and a personal atmosphere as you follow these young humans. It was so interesting, the book didn’t pull me down when I was reading, she handles each character’s story arc very carefully. Some people were bothered by the unanswered questions but I thought it was fine, it left me thinking and made the story feel lifelike as if it was part of history. If you are interested in lesbian relationship drama with air-bombs falling in the outskirts of London then this is a book for youFOLLOW BLOG (Kenyan Library)

  • Steelwhisper
    2019-04-11 01:55

    One of the reviews which expressed my own feelings extremely well was Tocotin's to be read here: I was expecting too much. By now I should have learned that I and Booker or Orange Price participants do not mesh well. I so wanted to like this book, delve into the era, submerge myself in war-time London, only to fetch up short and painfully against the fact that Waters clearly dislikes the characters she writes. She concentrates so fully and entirely on the sordid, on the negative in everyone, that I squicked out of between the book's pages within hearing of the first sentence. And couldn't face going on. I just don't want to be terminally depressed. I don't want to hate (all) the people I read about. To want to participate in their lives, which is what reading a book is about, I need to want that. And Waters' writing did the opposite to me, it made me want to flee their sphere of influence. Her every sentence, every word, every image seems to be honed to create the most revulsive, negative and miserable impression of that person and situation vaguely possible.So, no. Really no. Too bad.

  • Fanny
    2019-04-15 18:47

    This book made me feel a bit disappointed. I ended up liking the characters somewhat, but at the end of the day I felt like I had a big "WHY?" written over my forehead. The plot is almost non-existing and the one that actually is there provides to you no answers that I found satisfying enough to read 441 pages of this book.I feel a bit fooled when you do not get to know what happened after part one, what the women made of their lives, what happened to Helen and Julia? What did Kay do when she got tired of lurking around in her uniform all day long? This is what I would like to read about. I am not really interested in reading 400 pages just to find out some small details that bound the characters together. This was what I did not like about the book. I want to give Waters credits for trying to write in this way, with the timeline moving in the opposite direction. I think it is brave and original. That I did not like it is actually my problem, but as I mentioned earlier, I liked the characters. Manny of them were very sweet and interesting and I believe this was what made me finnish this one.

  • JohnBellamy
    2019-04-24 21:46

    The college library furnishing me with fiction affixes a pink label to the spines of several of Sarah Waters'books designating them as "gay" fiction. I'm not certain of the purpose of such labels--recommendation? deterrence?--but it is surely a disservice to this gifted writer and a distortion of her remarkable work to marginalize it in the category of "lesbian" fiction. Having greedily devoured "Fingersmith" and "The Little Stranger," I was already persuaded that Waters is the best "sensation" novelist since Wilkie Collins laid down his quivering quill. But "Night Watch" offers compelling evidence that Waters is also a master (mistress?)of the historical period novel. That period here is World War II, the place is Blitzed-out London and her narrative follows the fortunes and inter-woven relationships of her vividly drawn characters--mostly of non-heterosexual proclivities--as they encounter and endure both public and private disasters in that overstressed era. Yes, as some reviewers have complained, this book is often depressing; yes, it includes explicit depictions of lesbian sex that may put off some readers, and, yes--probably the gravest challenge, the story is told in reverse chronological order, with the 1947 situations of her characters ultimately having their determinative roots in pivotal events that occurred in 1944 and 1941. But whatever the sexual yearnings of her characters, their love stories have a universal appeal and Waters' evocation of the pangs of sexual jealousy should strike a common chord in anyone who has ever entertained the green-eyed monster in his or her bosom. Perhaps not a book for everyone--forget about the homosexual sex--Waters' graphic description of a back-alley abortion could serve as the ultimate scare story of a sexual abstinence propaganda program--but altogther a novel to be cherished and enjoyed by lovers of superbly accomplished historical fiction. As with Waters' other books, I simply couldn't put it down.

  • Kristina A
    2019-03-31 19:41

    Stayed up late reading yet another Sarah Waters novel... Something about her writing helps me recapture the excitement about reading that has diminished somewhat since I've become an academic -- reading in a kind of fever, staying up late, etc. That said, this novel (as other reviewers have noted) is quite different from her others. The plot is certainly not as fast-paced or full of "twists" as the earlier novels; the setting has moved from Victorian to WWII (which makes a big difference to me as a Victorianist); and the voice has changed from first person to third, with four main characters instead of one or two. Perhaps the biggest but not as obvious change is an overall difference in tone and writing style; although she hasn't really captured a Modernist tone as she caught the Victorian tone of past novels, she is clearly working in a mid-twentieth century style, one that's more concise (other reviewers might say "less flowery," though I take issue with the description of Victorian style as flowery). I'm always impressed with the subtle differences in the feel of her novels and her ability to make her characters sound different from one another, but this departure is to me the most impressive of all.I didn't give the novel the highest rating, only because I'm trying to reserve that if possible for my very favorite novels, but I did like this very much. Although it was slower than others, I still was drawn in emotionally right from the beginning (perhaps I felt this more keenly coming in right from The Thirteenth Tale, into which I was, sadly, not drawn). I really felt for the characters. At first I wasn't sure about the chronology (the first part takes place in 1947, the next in 1944, and the final in 1941), but as I thought more about the novel, I liked it because I felt like the structure reinforced the story. That is, the story is about trauma on a number of levels, and the only way to approach trauma is to work backward. Ultimately the reader is left hanging somewhat -- even if you re-read the early sections you're not sure exactly what will happen to the characters -- but this really works for the story, since the characters themselves are stuck, unsure if they can really get past their situations. Some of them see a way out, but will they be able to get there? We're not entirely sure.One of the things Waters writes about best, in my opinion, is betrayal. And she does a wonderful job in a number of the books with showing the other side of a betrayal -- what made a person do what they did. But even if she doesn't show the other side, she's so good in any case at making you feel the chill of a lover's betrayal. If anyone can defend Reggie's behavior, please leave a comment. His betrayal is one of the worst I can think of. Man, I hated that guy. And kinda enjoyed hating him, too.

  • Chrystal Hays
    2019-03-31 18:48

    This book has been described as "almost Dickensian"....I should say not. No caricatures or ridiculous coincidences here. I would never insult it in that way. This is elegant, and the unusual structure, which bothered me a little at first, actually works in a peculiar way to give a crescendo of the horror of war, to that which has been overcome. For males thinking "lesbians are hot", this will be a disappointment. It is a much more realistic treatment of the relationships among women than I have ever seen. (Thus, not at all like porn.)I am also impressed with the author's ability to write negative ideation...the "bad thinking" people fall into, some more than others. The way thoughts can twist and carry a sound person away, the way many people live, is portrayed beautifully...without the heavy-handedness that often erodes a plot. This also allows one to really comprehend how little each person can really know or understand of the pasts of those one encounters, and how the present, as we live it, always seems to be the most important, most vital thing, and the future so unimaginable...yet time will go on, and our lives will unfold, surprising us. I continue to be inmpressed and delighted with this writer's work.

  • Jonfaith
    2019-04-11 18:54

    "Jon, this is about lesbians." Such was my stepmom's drawly voice on the phone one afternoon. I had bought The Little Stranger for her birthday a month before. I then read that novel and discovered it was rubbish or at least a muddled effort to be a class-conscious ghost story. I ran out the following day and bought her The Night Watch which I had read months before and liked considerably. I never thought that this single detail would elicit a literary discussion over the phone. This was in fact the closest to a literary conversation I have ever had with my family over the phone or otherwise.

  • Paul
    2019-04-16 21:58

    It took me a while to decide whether I liked the way the book was written; introducing the main characters in 1947 and then going back to 1944 and 1941. So you know how it is going to end. However the characters work well and the atmosphere of wartime London is well drawn. The relationships feel real and I certainly cared about the characters. The ending, especially the last sentence, is wonderful and puts some of the rest of the book in perspective. This is the first Sarah Waters I have read and it may not be representative, if the TV adaptions are representative. I will certainly read more. This is about normal people coping with abnormal circumstances. I felt especially drawn to Kay and I wonder whether others who have read it felt the same. Lovely book and worth reading.

  • Craig Monson
    2019-03-28 01:42

    This is a book more about relationships than “plot,” and about characters that some readers may find unlikeable or even intolerable: the author’s empathy for difference and its life challenges is not something all Goodreaders will necessarily share. Set in three “acts” between 1941 and 1947—but taken in reverse order (’47-’44-’41)—it follows half-a-dozen lives that turn out to be interlinked, with paths that cross and re-cross, whether by accident or by design, sometimes in life-changing ways. These are almost all outsiders, negotiating their way within a society that had judged Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness “obscene” not so long before. (It was only republished without legal repercussions in 1949.) These were the decades during which E.M. Forster had stopped writing, since he could not write what he wanted to write. (Maurice would only be published posthumously, in 1971.) Interestingly enough, Hall’s novel had also centered around a female ambulance driver, but in WW I. In Water’s WW II London, with able-bodied men otherwise occupied, pulling dead or mangled bodies out of bombed out buildings was still a publically acceptable role for “mannish” women. By 1947, when the book opens, most of Water’s characters are “leftovers” from the war, accommodating themselves to what seems a less “free” way of life. One character becomes a gas pump jockey in a filling station, where a woman in trousers is acceptable; another continues to go her own way, encountering inevitable passive and not-so-passive aggression as a result. They seem somewhat adrift in a bleak, ordinary post-war British world, to the extent that those years of austerity, lingering desolation and deprivation, and struggles to rebuild could seem ordinary. Waters recreates a life reality still worlds away from today, when self-helpers glibly proclaim “follow your dream” and “the only person that matters is you.”The shift to 1944, then to 1941, illuminates obliquely how the 1947 realities and relationships came to be. Waters conveys these more vivid, violent times in arresting detail. There are evocative depictions, for example, of characters’ boldly groping their way through the London blackout or rescuing the victim, not of a German bomb, but of a part-time abortionist. One reaches the end with a clearer sense of why these people’s lives went the way they did, but it is not wrapped up nicely with a big, red bow. I was not alone in finding it hard to sort out the first time through. I had to return to 1947 in search of insight, which still remained somewhat elusive. But in 1947 Britain, the future remained uncertain, even for ordinary ‘insiders”: there were no pat answers to sort things out and ring down the curtain. So perhaps Water’s strategy rings true.

  • Sofie
    2019-03-29 20:10

    The Night Watch is the story about four people in a London marked by the Second World War, all trying to find a way for themselves. Kay was an ambulance driver during the war, fearless, energetic, loved and in love. Now she wanders the street, not certain what she's searching for. Helen is living with Julia, having all she could wish for, but she's plagued by jelousy and guilt. Viv knows that she's wasting her life waiting the next stolen moment with her married lover, but can't bring herself to give him up. Her younger brother Duncan spends the days with mindless work in a factory and the nights with his "uncle", fading away a bit more every day. The lives of these characters, and the supporting cast, intertwine more than you can imagine when you first start reading.The book is written in three parts, taking place in 1941, 1944 and 1947, but in reverse chronological order. I'm usually not fond of tricks like that, but in this case it works. Veil after veil is lifted, to reveal some of the mystery surrounding these characters, but not all. When I'd finished reading, after the part set in 1941, I admit I was a little bit disappointed. I didn't get the answers I'd been looking for, I wanted to know more about these persons, and most importantly, what happened to them. But I went back to the start and read some parts from the 1947 block again, and found that I knew more that I thought I did.A lot of people seem to find The Night Watch dull compared to Sarah Water's other books. I've only read Tipping the Velvet, which was wonderful, but I actually like this one better. Perhaps it's not exciting, but it's definitely compelling.My favourite part about the book is that, even though it's set in the 40s, the characters' sexuality is treated as a fact, and not as an issue. They have problems in their relationships, of course, but it's not because some of them happen to be gay, it's simply because they're human. It's a rather unusual approach in fiction, and very refreshing.The war is treated much in the same way. It's there, ruthlessly shaping their lives, but it's not really commented on.I had a lovely time reading this book, enjoying Sarah Water's wonderful langague, and I definitely recommend it.

  • Kate Forsyth
    2019-04-18 23:50

    I am such a huge fan of Sarah Waters. I think she may be my favourite author at the moment. I’ve been slowly working my way though her backlist, and finally had the chance to read The Night Watch, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker and the Orange Prize.The novel has an unusual and audacious structure, in that each new section of the book moves backwards in time rather than forwards. So the first section begins in 1947, in the aftermath of World War II, when the people of London are struggling to get their lives back together; the second section is set in 1944, when it seemed the war would never end; and the final in 1941, during all the chaos and horror of the Blitz. We are introduced to a handful of people whose lives are linked, we shall discover, in surprising ways. There is Kay, a young woman who dresses like a man and who cannot recover from a broken heart. There is Duncan, a young man who spent much of the war in prison. And there are Helen and Viv, two young women who work together and yet know surprisingly little about each other’s secret private lives. Working backwards through their stories, much like an archaeologist may dig deeper for new revelations about a place and time, has an unexpected effect of slow-building suspense. The book, though slow and deep, becomes unputdownable. I cared so much for them – especially heart-broken Kay and soul-damaged Duncan – that I could almost not bear to reach the parts where the hurt was done.I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because this is a book rife with spoilers. All I will say is that – like all of Sarah Waters’ books – it is utterly brilliant! I wish I could write so well.

  • elisabeth
    2019-03-29 00:56

    I have a strange relationship with Sarah Waters' books -- I love them because they are unmistakable queer, with mental illness and the complications of existence portrayed without focusing too much on queer tragedy. Books like Affinity made me cry, and books like The Paying Guests gave me a certain amount of relief. Reading The Night Watch right on the heels of reading Connie Willis' WW2 series was a relief. Here was a fictional examination of WW2 England in which I actually fit. At the same time, the reverse chronology left me feeling ambivalent: I was left unfilled re: Viv's story line, and incredibly satisfied re: Kay's story line. Perhaps this book was just too big? I think I could have definitely lived without the Viv storyline. Anyway, strange book, glad I read it. Especially nice after Connie Willis and her "Queers? What Queers?" book.

  • Erin
    2019-04-11 22:05

    I can honestly say I haven't read a book like this before, and that's a good thing. It was really engrossing, mainly because it was almost completely character driven, and the characters were very interesting. The story starts in 1947 in post-War Britain, then the 2nd half is in 1944, and then it ends in 1941 (basically wrapping up how these characters first met each other). I really have to go back and skim the first third of the book because now i will understand what's really going on with all the back story filled in. What I would've really appreciated was an epilogue, but of course, that's because i'm a plot-driven kind of girl and i like things tied up in neat little bows. Sarah Waters doesn't particularly care about that!I was warned that I will feel frustrated because the book is unfinished, and I slightly do, but the book isn't about what will happen (which is what plot-driven books are all about) and tying up loose ends; Waters is concerned with what HAS happened to the characters, and how they've ended up where they did. And if you think about the story that way, all the loose ends are tied up. It was a little slow, and SO MUCH DETAIL! But the story was interesting, and I know more about post-War England than I ever have before--she has just the right attention to detail. Incredibly well-written, but you definitely need to devote some time and energy to it. It's no Harry Potter! But we all need to mix up our reading occasionally!

  • Mari Biella
    2019-03-31 18:45

    "Why is it we can never love the people we ought to?" one of the characters asks in the course of The Night Watch. It's an apt question, since clandestine affairs (whether heterosexual or homosexual) are at the heart of this novel. The characters, for various reaons, are unable to be open about their love, and so their romances take place behind closed doors and in grubby hotel rooms, cloaked with layers of secrecy. Waters slowly opens those doors, one by one, and invites us to take a look inside. Some of what we see is seedy, and some of it is touching; it is all excellently drawn and believable.The novel focuses on a disparate group of characters who are nevertheless connected: Kay, the wartime ambulance driver who, in peacetime, seems to exist in a kind of limbo; Viv, caught up in the blind alley of an affair with a married man; her brother Duncan, who has been to prison for an offence that remains unspecified at first; and Helen, caught between two lovers and facing the prospect of betrayal – not betrayal at the hands of another, but betrayal that she inflicts on another. At first these characters are nebulous, a little unfathomable; then, as you begin to delve into their respective pasts, the mist surrounding them slowly disperses. Fittingly, perhaps, the book has an unusual chronological structure: it begins in 1947, in a Britain that is slowly being rebuilt from the rubble of the war; from there it jumps back to 1944, and then back to 1941. It's a brave and unusual choice, to start with the serenity or disillusionment of a romance that is either maturing or dying and then leap back to its messy middle and then to its giddy beginning, and yet it works here: with all the characters, we feel that we are slowly unpacking their personal histories (and mysteries). You might think that this backward chronology would kill suspense, but actually it lends the novel a new kind of tension: you are curious as to why the characters are in their current positions, and what has happened to them, and that curiosity keeps you with Waters as she gradually reveals the truth. (This is a slow burn kind of book, by the way; Waters likes to take her time, fleshing out her characters in some depth, and she has an eye for detail.)Waters's depiction of the Blitz is wonderful and awful at once: wonderful for its detail and its depth and sheer power, awful in terms of its unflinching portrayal of blood and destruction. Wartorn London is often almost hallucinatory, a wasteland; and yet it is also, almost miraculously, a place where love and friendship continue, defiantly, to exist. Elizabeth Bowen's novel The Heat of the Day kept popping up in my mind as I read, and it soon became clear why: the war, for all its horrors, actually liberates some people, and particularly women. Kay in particular seems to pulsate with life during the war; following the return of peace, she seems insubstantial, hollow, almost ghostly.Much as I love Waters's books, I don't think that this was my favourite. I actually find it hard to say quite why; it just didn’t grab my attention in quite the same way as the others (The Little Stranger being the one I still rave about, despite having read it years ago). Having said that, Waters on an off day is probably still better than many other writers on the best day of their lives, so it would be churlish to moan. Though I wouldn't recommend it to a newcomer to her fiction (if you're going to read just one of her books before you die, let it be The Little Stranger), those who are already her fans won't be disappointed. Good show!

  • Margaret
    2019-04-07 01:53

    Waters starts her tale of WWII London in 1947, introducing several characters and showing us their situations: Kay, who's still obsessed with wartime and can't connect with anyone in the present; Helen and Julia, whose love affair is threatened by Julia's possible infidelity; Viv, who's involved with a married man; and Viv's brother Duncan, whose life is changed when he meets again the man he shared a prison cell with. Then Waters works backwards: having shown us where these characters are after the war, she goes back to wartime to show us how they got there, with the main part of the book occurring in 1944 and a much shorter section at the end in 1941.The wartime setting is excellent; Waters obviously did her research, and she creates a very convincing atmosphere, particularly when her characters are out in the streets of London. As far as the unusual plot structure goes, Waters is clever about how much she reveals as she goes along, so that I never felt that I already knew what had happened. It does feel a little manipulative, as the characters refer to earlier events circuitously, so that the reader doesn't get too much information, but it's an interesting experiment. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work for me. This was partly because I didn't find the characters all that engaging, and partly because once I finished the book, I would have liked to know what happened after the 1947 section, which is left very open-ended. Having been led back through the characters' lives to find out how they got where they were, I'd have liked a little more closure as to where they were going, too. It was worth reading, but it's definitely my least favorite of Waters' books and I doubt I'll read it again.

  • Tocotin
    2019-04-19 20:54

    I like Sarah Waters a lot (my favorite book of hers is Affinity), and I enjoyed this one, but can't say I was looking forward to continuing the reading (I read on the train, mostly). It's not the slow pace that bothered me, or the excessive use of details. I think the author did a fantastic job describing the material side of living in wartime London - the food, the lack of cigarettes, the longing for luxury. It's not even that the story is sad and depressing and devoid of hope - and it is - I'm ok with that. It has an interesting construction - intertwined stories of several people's lives during the WW2 - beginning at the end and going back in time, and I liked to read about all characters, although Duncan's prison moments were sometimes hard to bear. My main complaint is that the author seems to concentrate on more squalid stuff of life, all those stinky feet, oily hair, spunk and blood - not that I support the 19th century views of not showing the sordid side - it's just that I can't feel her love... I don't know how to explain it, but I felt as if she herself were grossed out with the world and people she was writing about, as if she didn't really like them... she was cold to them, distant, I don't know. UGH whatever I still like Sarah Waters. I'd like to see her write a nice story for Mickey, the character I cared for the most.

  • Lydia
    2019-04-16 01:48

    Pretty sure this is the first book I've read that has gay ladies as main characters????? I'm 22 this is a fricking tragedy. More gay ladies in everything please.Okay, first things first, gay 1940s ladies was everything I needed. 10/10 would recommend.I do like a book that goes "back in time" so I appreciated the structure of this novel. It first gave the events of 1947, then 1944, then 1941. There's something about slowly understanding how the characters got into these situations that just appeals to me. But I did find it slightly frustrating in this book. I guess it's cool that I don't know where the characters end up after 1947, but goddamnit I want to know!But overall it was really enjoyable and Sarah Waters is a pretty good writer. I'll be reading more of her stuff.(oh, but content warning for a graphic self-injury scene that was extremely difficult and upsetting to read)(plus content warning for suicide which was pretty upsetting as well)(view spoiler)[And I don't care that Duncan didn't explicitly state it in the text, he's gay and I won't hear anything else said about it. And in love with Alec and Fraser.(hide spoiler)]

  • Punk
    2019-04-15 02:08

    Historical Fiction. I love the writing in this. Waters' prose reminds me of Margaret Mahy -- slow and lyrical, with surprising moments of whimsy. The story is filled with compelling characters and tracks the way their lives intersect, overlap, and diverge again. I was less thrilled with the fact the book starts in 1947 London and works its way backwards to 1941. It's well done, but gimmicky, a perfectly ordinary novel made slightly mysterious with...whatever the opposite of foreshadowing is. Oddly (predictably), it also lessens the tension; obviously Viv doesn't die in 1944 because she's alive in 1947. But, at the same time, it was kind of fun puzzling out everyone's past history. So it looks like I've ended up neutral on that point.For all its time-travelling, this is mainly a novel about queer women trying to survive the war, and once that's done, trying to survive that. But, you know, backwards.Four stars for the wonderful writing, and for four equally interesting narrators. I'll definitely be reading more by Waters.

  • Penny
    2019-04-04 01:03

    I have loved all the Sarah Waters books I've read so far, although I didn't rate this one as highly as Fingersmith, The Little Stranger and The Paying Guests (3 crackers).It's not an original idea to start at a moment in time (in this case 1947) and work the story backwards. In less accomplished hands this could be a disaster, but Waters manages it really well. In fact I think it really adds to the story. For instance one relationship in 1947 is shown as having lost its thrill and has become stale. And yet as we read the book we discover the heady sense of excitement, love and lust at the outset of that same relationship.Waters is superb at how she sets her books in certain periods of time. I thought her description of life in 1944 was particularly good. People are tired and weary of years of war and sick to death of make do and mend. And yet they already wonder what they will find to talk about once the war has ended.Having spent over 500 pages with these characters I am curious about how their lives evolved after 1947 - so if Waters ever fancies writing a sequel to any of her books............