Ian Mapp's Reviews > The Night Watch

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
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's review
Apr 17, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical
Read in October, 2007

** spoiler alert ** I have to say that I thought this book was engrossing and entertaining, working backwards in time to reveal its mysteries.

There are many major characters here and you begin to get involved with all of them, wanting them to reveal there secrets.

Opening in 1947 after the war, each of the characters has a dark secret they wish to block out. Helen and Viv work together in a London dating agency on Oxford Street. Helen is in love with Julia, a writer of mystery fiction, but the necessity of keeping her love secret and her own jealousy is tearing their relationship apart. Viv is having an affair with a married man, Reggie – a relationship that is doomed as he is never going to leave his wife. Viv’s brother Duncan was imprisoned during the war years over an incident that is of great distress to his father and sister. A sensitive boy, he lives now with his ‘Uncle Horace’ who he knows from prison. When by chance he meets Fraser, who he also knew from prison, the claustrophobic, locked-away existence becomes too much for him to bear, but Fraser also opens Viv’s eyes to how restricted her own life with a married man is. Connecting many of these characters is Kay, a mysterious boyish-looking girl, who seems to have endured the hardships of the war better than most, but to a cost. The toll of the war years on the characters is covered in the remaining two sections of ‘The Night Watch’ as it then moves backwards in time to 1944 and 1941.

The secrets are revealed. Duncan is in jail for attempted suicide (illegal in the war) as he and his "friend" alec, try to get out of conscription. Helen and Kay were together. Kays former lover was Julia, who helen started an affair with.

Viv is running around with a married man - and has an illegal abortion during the war, which almost kills her.

Working backwards through events is a great technique and working out how all the characters interact is part of the fun.

Changing morals between the war years and present day are also strongly used.

The book has everything and certainly a contender for book of the year. There have been many contenders.
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