David Sarkies's Reviews > The Watch Tower

The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower
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Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: horror
Recommended to David by: Adelaide University English Department
Recommended for: Those who like horror and Australian Literature.
Read from September 20 to 29, 1996, read count: 1

I read this book once for English I a long time ago (1996) and I am highly unlikely to read it again. In fact I no longer own a copy of this book, having passed it on to one of my friends who had enrolled in English I after me (though by that time the reading list had changed). I must say that there was something different between text books in High School and text books at university, namely in Highschool we did not have to purchase them. In fact, I am not sure if any other states (or countries) have a system like that where we borrow the text books for a year and then return them either when we have finished with them or we complete the course. However, with some English books, such as Hamlet, we don't need to borrow them, though I suspect that the editions that are recommended are because of the commentaries.
This book is set in Australia during World War Two, when the protagonists flee England to live a more peaceful life in Australia. At this time, as I mentioned in my previous commentary, war had ceased to be something that occurred at the fringes of the empire, and had moved much closer to home. In fact, during the period, the enemy was pretty much breathing down the throat of the old empire, and the enemies were standing at the gates. As such many people in England fled to safer parts of the empire, but even then, places like India, and even Australia, were feeling the pressure of the enemies bearing down upon them.
However this book is not about war, or fleeing from war, to an extent. The book takes place in a mansion in Sydney, and it is probably more about fleeing one horror, the horror of war, to another horror, and that is the horror of being trapped. I can't remember much of the book beyond that, but I do remember that the lecturer talked about the horror of being trapped, of being imprisoned, with no way out. Look, this book did not draw me in all that much, but I guess the concept is a much better concept of horror than the typical slasher flicks that we see. They are not horror, they are more designed to create a reaction with the overuse of blood and gore. However books are not visual, not in the same sense as movies, and as such the horror that comes off of the page tends not to be visual but rather more emotional. I guess that is why Steven King is so popular (though he use of the supernatural to supplement his literary horror adds to it).
However, this book does not deal with the supernatural, but rather with the mundane and to write a good horror along those lines takes talent. Steven King did that with Misery (though I have yet to read that book). This book does it through the use of being trapped (similar to Misery) and one thing that I remember my lecturer talking about was the ultimate horror of being trapped was being trapped in ones own flesh. We see this, in a way, in Silence of the Lambs (another book, or actually a movie, on our reading list). Silence of the Lambs involves a serial killer who kills and skins his victims, as if trying to make a bodysuit. In a sense, the killer has become dissatisfied with his own body, so he descends into madness to try to escape from his flesh, his body, by creating a suit from other people's bodies that he can wear.
It reminds me in part of Jeffery Damlier. He was homosexual, but he did not like sexual penetration (and this may relate back to the discussion on sex and violence in by previous review) however he could not find any others that would agree to the fondling and kissing without the penetration, so he decided to create his own zombies, and began to kidnap people and inject toxic chemicals into them to turn them into mindless zombies. It didn't work, and he ended up killing them. In a sense, this is another idea that it is through madness and insanity that somebody is able to overcome the inhibition of killing another human being. It is like what we think, that when somebody is capable of murder, and even multiple murders, then we consider them a monster. Maybe it is true, and it probably is true, however what we need to remember is that despite any psychological or psychiatric malfunction in their system, they are still a danger to society, and must be treated as such, because we cannot have people simply going around killing other people.
Hmm, I have said little about this book as is, but I guess there is not really any more that I can say about this book, so I will finish it off there.
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