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The Watch

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  751 ratings  ·  200 reviews
Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Hogarth (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Julie Gant
This book broke my heart.

On a personal note, I lived and worked in Afghanistan in the zeroes, mostly in Kabul, and and the locals always struck me as good, simple, hospitable people. What is now happening in that country is terrible, and this is the first book I've read that shows both sides of the story, without taking sides, which makes it different from almost all the Western and especially American accounts I've read about the war. I've tried to keep up with the friends I made there, who're
...more
Lana
Lana says:

I already knew from reading The Gabriel Club that Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya doesn’t just tell a story: he puts you at the heart of it and opens your senses to its pulsating life. So that’s what I was looking for when I read The Watch, and that’s what I got. But I hadn’t anticipated that the life it opened to would be quite so devastating. I knew by the description that the story takes place in war torn Afghanistan, so I expected it to disturb: war stories do disturb. But Roy-Bhattachary
...more
Megan27
Along with the dark humor of Satantango by the contemporary Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasnahorkai, The Watch is my best read of the year without a doubt.

The story is simple and stark. A young Afghan woman, mutilated in a drone attack that killed the rest of her family, appears before a remote US outpost to ask for the return of her brother's body. Trouble is, her brother led an overnight attack on the outpost that resulted in his own death and that of the rest of his band, but not before the sol
...more
Doug Bremner
The Watch, a new novel by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, is an interesting story of war and conflict told from multiple perspectives. It starts out with the story of a disabled girl who has her entire family to bombing in Afghanistan, who takes a long journey to retrieve the body of her brother, who was recently killed leading an assault on a base in Kandahar. She camps outside the base for days waiting for the soldiers to release the body for burial, which they have orders not to do. This story inte ...more
Steve Campbell
Jun 09, 2012 Steve Campbell rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers of David Finkel, Sebastian Junger, Michael Herr
The stuff of everyday headlines these days and very possibly the best book I've read on the current wars. On the edge, driven, taut, and by far the best depiction of American soldiers on the front line. In many ways a mixture of Jarhead and War, it takes you straight into the fighting, bleeding, dying. In simple, direct language, with just the kind of 24/7 unexpected situations you face in combat.

So what do you do when you're faced with a civilian who turns up just when you've survived a viciou
...more
Wendy
I've been an admirer of this writer's work since I read The Storyteller of Marrakesh last year. The Watch I feel helps me in my five-years-and-counting project of figuring out America, and how I fit into it, through great fiction.

Roy-Bhattacharya recently spoke about the disgust and apathy that are the most common responses to discussion of the war in Afghanistan. There's been good reportage and memoir coming out of it, but surprisingly little serious fiction. With understanding and often sympa
...more
Jessica
Wow. I really wanted to like this book. There is almost nothing in the world of fiction about the war in Afghanistan, and that complicated place is begging for a way to be understood - or not understood, as the case may be. Roy-Bhattacharya seemed like a good candidate to introduce people to the complexities of that land, and to the Americans who have now been laboring there for more than a decade. But he fails. Technically, all the pieces are in place: bewildered, working-class grunts; exhauste ...more
Kelly Knapp
May 22, 2012 Kelly Knapp rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone over the age of 15 or 16
Recommended to Kelly by: Goodreads Firstreads program
I would have given this book a 5 star rating, but it felt like someone forgot to finish it.

This book was absolutly amazing. After a firefight on an Afganastan/American military post, a young disabled woman travels from her home to the area where the fight happened. She has one purpose, to see her brother given a proper muslim bureal...or does she?

This is the problem. What are her motives? Does she really want to bury her brother or is she a suicide bomber? Should the men in the post trust her, o
...more
Redstone
What an astonishing and thought provoking book! For this Australian, an uncanny insight into the American conduct of war, the war in Afghanistan, and American views of themselves and others in this war in which Australia was among the very early participants. As with other readers, I was taken with the author's determination to balance perspectives, a rare but essential quality of the best war fiction. Aspects of the writing brought back memories of the disaster in Vietnam, another quagmire in w ...more
Kieran
The story is well-written and, I think, wonderfully interweaves the eight different perspectives occurring over a few days to carefully construct the characters, the atmosphere of a US military outpost in the harsh environment of the Afghan desert, and to juxtapose the different cultures.

It is a story that can be enjoyed very much for it's plot and characters alone, but one that I also found to be very thought-provoking and topical, drawing on many different themes and conflicts. With the genera
...more
Carol
Battlefield. This word immediately stirs up a myriad of images, anything from charging horses and swords to beaches strewn with mines, numbered hills and rice patties, or a dry barren patch of desert in Afghanistan. Some of the fiercest, most frightening battles are fought on the smallest field of all - the one inside each participant's mind.

The enemy. Traditionally, the men in those other uniforms. Morphed into present, the enemy is the man, woman or child currently trying to destroy you. Forg
...more
Tad
The Watch is a powerful and moving story. Based on the greek play, Antigones, it is updated and set in present day Afghanistan.

The story is told and retold from multiple perspectives, overlapping both in time and in vantage point. The novel takes a story that starts out two-dimensionally and builds it into a three-dimensional image with each character’s perspective. Layer upon layer is added brilliantly to the narrative. It captures the intensity, confusion and conflict both internally and exte
...more
Naeem
Dear Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya,

I threw your book down on the floor after finishing it and yelled, “No! no! no!”

The first chapter is perhaps one of the most brilliant I have read: tight, exact, culturally specific, and with momentum that propelled me through the rest of the book. The chapter alone is worth reading the book.

Alas, it is the only good chapter.

There are so many things wrong with your book that I don’t know where to start. Let me go through the list:

- Antigone? You want to start and
...more
Joe Kendall
Great book. Very well written. It was a different book than I am use to reading because there was no great battle. No great evil plot at hand. It was one woman who wanted to bury her brother and would not take no for an answer. Jumping to different points of views on the situation gave the story a lot of depth too. The different officers trying to control their men and the situation, along with their own lives (many of which were falling apart). Showing how Americans and Afghans just do not seem ...more
Sharon
Bookish pundits keep wondering when we'll see great literature coming out of our wars in the Middle East. This one is in the running. I'm still shaking from its portrayal of life in the unit, the quilted voices of each individual soldier with the loves and sorrows in the background of each, as well as their similarities when they're in the desert. The way war forces out the tenderest humanity one moment and the starkest inhumanity the next. The confusion and surety. The complicated loyalties. As ...more
David
Here's a novel that brings the Greek play Antigone to the 21st century as it delves into the complexities of war, mythology, being a soldier, American family issues/dysfunction, and many other issues. The first chapter gets you hooked and you slug through the soldiers' narratives about the critical chapter one event from various slice-of-life perspectives. The literary quality should make this work up for various awards and it'd be an outstanding novel for any unit on why we're in Afghanistan. O ...more
Jessica
This is my first Goodreads review. The Watch is an insanely good book. Moving, intelligent, and very provocative, I defy anyone who can finish it without feeling complicit. As well, the humor that runs through the conversations is very real,mainly because the two things that get soldiers through the insane conditions they have to cope with are humor and profanity, and The Watch has plenty of both. At the same time, it's the first war fiction I'v e read about Afghanistan or Iraq that gives a soun ...more
Debbie
Aug 02, 2012 Debbie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: literary fiction
Last month I attended a reading in our local bookstore by the author. He was preceded by a Captain from the US army who spoke movingly about his experiences in Afghanistan. Both speakers were emotionally intense and went out of their way to address queries. I remember especially the statement made by the officer that less than 1% of the American population serve in the military and bear the brunt of their sacrifices. Our entire audience was very appreciative of the opportunity given to the offic ...more
Autumn



The Watch is based off the ancient Greek tale of Antigone. Don't remember that one? Don't feel bad. Neither did I. Basically Antigone's brother dies in battle outside the gates of the city. Antigone wants to bring his body back inside the gates for a proper burial but he's branded a traitor and the punishment is that he has to rot out there. The Watch is kinda flip flopped. The sister is outside the gates of the base and the dead brother is inside, but she wants his body for a proper burial.

The
...more
Nicki Markus
This was a very interesting piece. I loved the way the Antigone story was transposed into a modern situation and the background of the war in Afghanistan seemed very fitting.

The lack of speech punctuation irritated me at first, but soon I got used to it. I did like the way the story was told through the viewpoints of several different characters; it added extra layers of meaning and let you see things from all perspectives.

This is a compelling tale and is presented perfectly with good pacing an
...more
Jack R Moorhead
Aug 18, 2012 Jack R Moorhead rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers of literary and serious fiction and non-fiction
Recommended to Jack R Moorhead by: Bookseller recommendation
I read The Watch on the recommendation of my bookseller. I read it in three sittings, and then went back and reread the first chapter to check on a few details. Except for that the title is already taken, halfway through the book I thought it should have been called The Killing Field, not only because of the barren deserted field that is at the forefront of the action, but also because for the men in the battlefield what is the prevalent act of war other than about killing? And for all the train ...more
Ken
In 1970, fresh out of Vietnam and not feeling welcome at home, I felt the need for a respite in a very different country and chose Thailand. That didn't work out so next up was Afghanistan on a friend's suggestion. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done. I remember writing a postcard home about how peaceful the country was, the friendly people, the slow pace of life. It was like dropping into a past time. The countryside was beautiful, filled with fruit orchards, there was onl ...more
D.S.
Compulsively readable. A shaming comment on the nature and balance of power in a conflict zone. If you want to know how and why wars go bad despite the very best intentions, read this book. Combining poetic intensity with spare prose, Roy-Battacharya manages to both capture history in the making and surpass it in this modern masterpiece. Filled with stark conviction, Roy-Battacharya has conyeved the moral quagmire of an entire war by locating it in the experience of a single company of brave men ...more
Tracy
This book made me think a great deal. Each section was told from a different perspective. It is a cliche, but war is hell and so is the aftermath. Even though I knew certain characters were dead, I kept wishing they were alive because I liked them so much. I would recommend this book to just about any adult. It gives a look at our war in Afghanistan from many different points of view, but doesn't come off as preachy or even as the solution to the war.
Richard
Very reminiscent of Tim O'Brien: A non-linear plot weaving the surreal memories and fantasies of the soldiers with the troubling and often brutal realtities of their circumstances, all framed within a life or death decision pertaining to an Afghan civilian. As Sassoon wrote, and as O'Brien echoed, "Soldiers are dreamers", and this book captures their wistful innocence, desparate frustration, and capacity for cruelty. Solid read.
Florence Primrose
The Watch is a heart-breaking novel about the tragedy of Afghanistan. This is the story of the soldiers at an isolated base in Kandahar faced with a lone woman who has come to demand the return of her brother's body to bury.

In this novel we learn how we perpetuate violence. This is reality in a contemporary conflict and a powerful expression of e nature and futility of war.
Lisa
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya has flaws you don’t expect to find in the work of an experienced author, but it’s still a compelling story. It’s a modern retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, set in a remote military outpost in Afghanistan, and it treats the same theme as David Malouf’s thoughtful Ransom (itself based on The Iliad, see my review), that is, how the respectful burial of the dead is a defining characteristic of humanity.

Human remains at Lake Mungo in Australia provide the earlies
...more
Cheryl
There is a sameness about war with extremes not experienced in civilian life. There are orders, usually followed without question with no time to ruminate on options. Individual decisions, needs, and beliefs must meld with the whole, leaving warriors to ponder their behavior after the battle. Reason is blind as instinct prevails. Idealism pumps adrenalin, but reality rules. Motives are mixed, but all want to be heroes. Few are.

Most are longing for home and family, dead tired of privation, sicke
...more
Nicole
There are so many problems with this novel, not the least of which is the question that the whole plot hangs on and the entire Army base wrestles with---is the woman who she says she is--- would never have been asked by the Army in the first place. In the real world, the woman would have been told to see the local provisional official and that would have been the end of the Army's involvement. Putting that aside, the characters in this book are the same old stereotypes of military men: trigger-h ...more
Glennchuck
Made it to page 193 and bailed. "The Watch" started well, narrated by a compelling Afghani character confronting a U.S. military outpost. The book's perspective shifts from character to character, all in first person, describing a single event. The first one or two chapters narrated by U.S. military characters were OK, but then the author either hit a literary wall or the story lost so much steam that I started to notice how immature the prose was. Much of the flashbacks and dialogue--meant to s ...more
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So who is the book about ? 1 2 Apr 12, 2014 02:55PM  
Read It Forward: * THE WATCH by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya 11 34 Aug 02, 2012 02:08PM  
Ending 2 16 Jul 31, 2012 11:58AM  
Random House of C...: BOOK TRAILER: The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya 1 10 Apr 26, 2012 10:58AM  
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Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya was educated in politics and philosophy at Presidency College, Calcutta, and the University of Pennsylvania. His novels The Gabriel Club and The Storyteller of Marrakesh have been published in fourteen languages. He lives in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.
More about Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya...
The Storyteller of Marrakesh The Gabriel Club

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