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The Night Watch
Sarah Waters
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The Night Watch

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  13,508 ratings  ·  1,152 reviews

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit partying, and sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch tells the story of four Londoners-three women and a young man with a past-whose lives, and those of their friends and lovers, connect in tragedy, stunning surprise and exquisite turns, only to change irreversibly

Paperback, 528 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published 2006)
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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.
Jun 21, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: previous sarah waters reads
Shelves: read-in-2012
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 age

2. 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 admi
Lacey Louwagie
Jun 01, 2008 Lacey Louwagie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
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 chara
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 bec
"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
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 a ...more

Really 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
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 ...more
John  Bellamy
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" ...more
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 go
Kristina A
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 a
"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 ...more
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 ...more
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 sta
Chrystal Hays
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 t
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 ...more
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 al ...more
I picked up The Night Watch because I'd read and loved (in that deeply disturbed way) Fingersmith. In the future, I'll stick to Waters' books set in the Victorian era. The book is organized in reverse chronological order, so the idea is that as you read more, you understand why the characters were doing and thinking what they were at the beginning of the book. This is an interesting idea, particularly for a book that begins in 1947 Britain and moves backwards through WWII, but it only works if t ...more
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. Odd
Sarah Waters's The Night Watch is set in England during and just after World War II. The novel focuses on three women (Kay, Helen, Vivien) and a young man (Duncan) and begins in 1947, when we first meet the character. The following sections take us back to 1944 and then 1941, where we see the genesis of the shifting relationships between the four main characters. It's beautifully written - I was totally engrossed in the fates of the main characters and the minor ones - and incredibly atmospheric ...more
London after, in the middle of, and at the beginning of WWII, in that order; I am awed by the beauty of the nonlinear storytelling of The Night Watch. It's a character-driven novel, and it was a breath of fresh air after all the plot-driven fiction I've been reading lately. There is something poignant about the way Waters works backward through time in this novel, the way the characters come intensely to life as they grow younger, as the reader sees who they are, knowing whom they will become. T ...more
Sophie Murray
“Sometimes 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 – people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures.”

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
Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joyce Lagow
The Night Watch[return]Sarah Waters[return][return]In her 4th novel, Sarah Waters breaks radically with her first three books, in era, structure, and theme. The Night Watch is set against a 1946 London struggling to recover from the war; 2/3 of the book, however, takes place during the war itself.[return][return]Waters follows the lives of four ordinary Londoners as they cope as best as they can with the horrors of the war and its aftermath. However she does this most unusually by following them ...more
Lisabet Sarai

In 1999, Sarah Waters' first novel TIPPING THE VELVET caused a minor sensation. A rich, sprawling tale of Sapphic love in the world of Victorian music halls and secret "women's clubs", TIPPING THE VELVET managed to be outrageously sexy while retaining impeccable literary credentials. Ms. Waters went on to publish two additional books that vividly evoke the Victorian period, the FINGERSMITH (my personal favorite) and AFFINITY. Both focus on lesbian relationships, though they are generally less gr
It's 1947, and lives are reaching out for normality after the dislocation of war. For some this is difficult, unable to replicate the adrenaline rush of falling bombs and saving lives. For others, the relationships which made sense in the unnatural intensity of the war years no longer provide security and satisfaction.

Sarah Waters' novel follows the interlinked lives of five people in these dismal years. Helen and Viv work in a dating agency. Helen lives with the sophisticated Julia, whilst Viv
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 an ...more
Very interesting character tale told in reverse order from 1947, then 1944, to 1941. It's intriguing to see, by looking to the past, how the character's lives intersected during and after WWII. As usual with Waters novels she creates gay/lesbian relationships with thoughtful intrigue.

I do have to say, however, that this novel doesn't live up to Waters immaculately told mind-bending, plot-twisting, novel Fingersmith. Definitely don't pass up that one.
Kelly Herold
Watch, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch.


People in London after WWII doing things they think inappropriate. Watching other people. Sometimes listening.

If you are a fan of short stories--particularly short stories strung into a very long novel--then this book may be for you.

As for me, I disliked "The Night Watch" greatly, even though the prose is beautiful.

I'm finally free.
Aug 29, 2010 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie (Goodreads Reader!)
Another masterful book by Sarah Waters who has an unique style of writing, specially in this book.
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Sarah Waters is a British novelist. She is best known for her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, as well the novels that followed, including Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch.

Waters attended university, earning degrees in English literature. Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching. Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel.
More about Sarah Waters...
Fingersmith Tipping the Velvet The Paying Guests The Little Stranger Affinity

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“Why is it we can never love the people we ought to?” 36 likes
“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.” 16 likes
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