Customer Reviews


165 Reviews
5 star:
 (54)
4 star:
 (54)
3 star:
 (29)
2 star:
 (15)
1 star:
 (13)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb writing, but can't quite give it 5 stars...
There are a few things about Sarah Waters' books, the fact you can't put her books down, and read them at the speed of light and also that she REALLY knows about the era she's writing about. All that same quality is in this novel.
The story follows the intriguing stories of four main characters; Kay, Viv, Helen and Duncan. The characterisation is...
Published on 6 Feb 2006 by Iceni Peasant

versus
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously uninvolving for such a fine writer
Like a few other readers, I have struggled rather with this book mainly because, frankly I didn't find myself engaged by the characters.

I'm not sure whether this was the fault of structure or not - the 'reverse structure' is a bit of a gamble i think - if you are gripped by the characters, finding out how they got there can be as absorbing as wondering where...
Published on 7 Mar 2007 by Lady Fancifull


‹ Previous | 1 217 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb writing, but can't quite give it 5 stars..., 6 Feb 2006
By 
Iceni Peasant (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Night Watch (Hardcover)
There are a few things about Sarah Waters' books, the fact you can't put her books down, and read them at the speed of light and also that she REALLY knows about the era she's writing about. All that same quality is in this novel.
The story follows the intriguing stories of four main characters; Kay, Viv, Helen and Duncan. The characterisation is fantastic and you don't have to read too much before you really get a sense of the type of person each character is and become totally absorbed in following the characters.
It's a very clever novel, starting in 1947, then going back to 1944 and ending in 1941, so as the blurb suggests, you end with the beginning. Like a previous reviewer I felt the last section wasn't really needed as it didn't further what you needed to know about the characters and for me personally I'd have prefered to have gone back to 1947 by that point as it felt like some of the storylines were left with loose ends.
The setting of war-torn London is brilliantly presented and described to the reader, and the sections on Kay and her work in the ambulance service are very gritty, realistic and historically accurate; going to bomb sites to deal with the injured and dead and how that affected her personality.
It's also excellent writing setting the scene and situations faced by the ordinary women working in London in the 1940s, and the things faced every day by people trying to go about their own business.
Throughout the book there is a wonderful suspense and tension and little things revealed all along, with some wonderful twists and plot links. A really good book should always leave the reader wanting more, but after reading this book not only did I want more, but it felt more like it was unfinished and I felt several things were left unresolved, unless of course that is the author's intention.
This is still a superb read though, and highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


113 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Mention The War, 6 Jan 2006
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Night Watch (Hardcover)
The cover of the proof copy of Sarah Waters new novel comes adorned with might well be the subtitle of the book – “A Lot Of People Who Lived Through the War Don’t Like to Talk About It”, but it’s not just the war that is discreetly pushed aside by each of the characters, it is their unwillingness to face up to who they are, to the secret lives they were forced to lead and the terrible actions that each of them were driven to during a very turbulent time in their lives.
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.
Rather than heading towards a larger mainstream readership that she might have been tempted towards after the success of the Booker nominated ‘Fingersmith’, Sarah Waters takes a surprising change of direction here, adopting a more serious and realistic tone for her gay characters than the Victorian lesbian romps of her earlier books. ‘The Night Watch’ is almost unrelentingly bleak, starting by leaving its characters in unpleasant situations from what happened during the war and leaving them unresolved. Travelling backwards it then fully lives up to all the hints of dark events in the first part. Those events are often the common everyday stuff of friendships, extra marital affairs, petty jealousies and fears, but through the setting of the war and the intolerance of the period itself to all the central relationships, the book achieves an incredible emotional pitch - particularly when the outcome of the characters lives is already known.
One or two quibbles aside – the author rather overdoes the colloquial period use of the word ‘queer’ which comes across as too deliberate and pointed and the backwards structure doesn’t provide a proper sense of closure or completeness to the characters, (the final 1941 epilogue/prologue at the end feels unnecessary, adding little to what we already know or can work out and undercutting the tone of what has come before) – Sarah Waters writing here is superb. Avoiding narrative contrivance, the author keeps the tone realistic and authentic, the dialogue and connections between her characters naturalistic, making each of these figures utterly real and of their time and making the reader care about the unknown outcome of each one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An involved historical drama with human interest, 11 Sep 2006
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Night Watch (Hardcover)
I loved this book. I should declare a fondness for involved historical dramas with human interest, so perhaps The Night Watch had a starting advantage.

The novel, set in 1940s London, followed various young people through the war and the immediate aftermath: Kay, Julia and Helen - three gay women; Reggie and Viv - a soldier and his mistress; and Duncan - Viv's mixed up brother. The characters are rich, and the secondary characters are no less vivid. The novel has space - six years, nearly five hundred pages, and a widely drawn cast which allows for a lot of plot development and intrigue.

The detailing is superb, with scenes described to perfection. This is never overbearing, but the beauty is in the clarity. And there is humanity and humour amongst it all. It is interesting to contrast the impact of the occasional terrorist incident today and the nightly bombing, killing and devastation that people endured only 60 years ago. And it was especially interesting to reflect on the helplessness that prisoners must have felt, unable to seek safety or shelter as bombs dropped around them.

Sarah Waters uses perfect judgement, too, in addressing homosexuality in 1940s Britain in such a subtle and caring way. She focuses on the people and the love, rather than the sex and the scandal. This is a rare feat that her male counterparts could learn from.

The novel is narrated in three chunks, in reverse chronological sequence. This gives it an odd feel, and I am sure we will all have preferences about which chunk we felt most engaged with and how we might have ordered it. Personally, I preferred the middle: the 1944 chunk. Its ending, as ambulancewoman Kay discovers the fate of her lover Helen, is my personal emotional crescendo. I found the 1941 section rather a let down coming straight afterwards. But we must judge the novel as it is ordered, for right or for wrong. And for me, it is an engaging, page turning epic that offers real insight into aspects of 1940s Britain that have been forgotten.

I'm off to read Sarah Waters other works now...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 15 Aug 2006
By 
Kate Williams (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Night Watch (Hardcover)
I loved 'Fingersmith', 'Tipping the Velvet' and 'Affinity', but 'The Night Watch' is the best book Sarah Waters has written. It's perfect. The construction is so tight that it's dazzling and the characters are beautifully convincing. The male characters are very strong, which isn't always the case for novels in which the story is pushed forwards by the heroines.

Waters is excellent at showing how people hurt themselves and I found her portrayal of the experiences of Kay, Viv and Helen almost unbelievably moving. The twist at the end was brilliant.

It is great news that 'The Night Watch' is on the Booker longlist. Let's hope it wins.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm very surprised at the spread of votes, 13 Dec 2009
This review is from: The Night Watch (Paperback)
Waters' best book, I think, and not just because the style is so assured. As usual, it's a mystery novel and a very moving story. It's about the distance between people. People are a mystery partly because you can never know their pasts (except anecdotally). And in the case of non-compliance, society's oppressive mores cause additional alienation. Waters' book is a wartime tale of various people having difficulties connecting with each other for various reasons, gay men, lesbians, conscientious objectors, adulterers, single pregnant women. Their pasts are part of the problem, another part is that society won't let them come together, so the Night Watch is a metaphor for the furtiveness, the continually having to be on one's guard, continually being under threat of being caught out. The problem of a person's past making them a mystery is illustrated by having the three parts of the book set in 1947, 1944 and 1941 successively. And thus it's a tragedy in reverse - we trace sad outcomes back to their hopeful beginnings, and knowledge of these outcomes makes those hopeful beginnings all the more poignant. Consequently it's one of very few books where you want to read it twice in succession to see what gains significance the second time around. It's not perfect - Duncan's story is the weakest part of the whole book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 29 May 2007
This review is from: The Night Watch (Paperback)
The Night Watch has been in my `to be read' pile for some time. I bought it as it was set during the Second World War, a dramatic and captivating period of time for me, but I was put off by the structure of the book. It starts in 1947 and ends in 1941. I didn't like the idea that I would know how the character's stories finished before I found out what had happened to them in the beginning.

However, I started it and forced myself through the first few pages. But once I'd got going the pace never faltered and I devoured the book hungrily.

The story circles around the lives of Kay, Vivien, Duncan and Helen with important periphery characters; Fraser, Julia and perhaps Mr. Mundy. We find out how each of their different lives is connected in some way.

Even though the book lacked the suspense of what happens in the end, we still want to read on to know more. How all the pieces fit together.

Waters' writing is truly evocative. I loved her vivid descriptions. The sights, the smells. The sheer terror of the Londoners. It was truly enthralling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best yet!, 22 Mar 2006
This review is from: The Night Watch (Hardcover)
I am a real sucker for WW11 novels, and have studied the period quite extensively. This really is an outstanding depiction of the Blitz and the evreyday dangers endured by everyday people. I have never read such vivid descriptions of the dangers of walking through the blackout, the sights and smells of the nightly bombing and the weariness and deprivations people had to live through. The "first" (though really the last) section of the novel is wonderful in showing the greyness and dirt of London in the 40s.
Although the chief female protagonists are gay women, this is not as important as in Waters' other novels. But we engage with all the main characters, and we feel their pain in love and loss of love very intensely.
For me, one of the most agonising scenes is the one where Viv has an abortion. It is appalling to read and leaves you drained and exhausted.
Please rush to read this book, it is Waters' best so far, and finishing it just makes you want to start it all over again.....which is exactly what I did!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously uninvolving for such a fine writer, 7 Mar 2007
By 
This review is from: The Night Watch (Paperback)
Like a few other readers, I have struggled rather with this book mainly because, frankly I didn't find myself engaged by the characters.

I'm not sure whether this was the fault of structure or not - the 'reverse structure' is a bit of a gamble i think - if you are gripped by the characters, finding out how they got there can be as absorbing as wondering where they are going, but as I was not engaged, I found myself totally on the outside, playing mind games to see if I could guess, but caring no more than if I were trying to do do sudoku or a crossword puzzle.

Writers of course have to write the books they have to write - I've read all of Waters', because I picked up 'Affinity' first, which I thought was an amazing piece of writing, and was equally blown away by Fingersmith - these books left me with so much admiration for Waters' craft and ability - yet Tipping the Velvet seemed predictable and hackneyed. I thought 'well, TTV is a first novel - and if I'd read it before the other two, maybe it would seem very different' - sadly, for this reader at least, TNW is a disappointment - and i don't think it is just that I do like 'Victorian novels' - both writers of the time, and modern writers writing about that period.

Having recently read Andrew Greig's extraordinary 'That Summer' which, like TNW is set in Britain during the war, I didn't find Water's evocation of period particularly gave me a sense of a different time and place - Greig made me want to read more books set in the 40's (hence my keenness to read The Night Watch).

You win some, you lose some!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just another wartime tale, 1 Jan 2008
By 
Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Night Watch (Paperback)
Something appealed to me regarding this book - not quite sure what, perhaps the mystery of the four main characters as they are described on the back of the book. The Night Watch in the main does take place during the Night Time, in blackouts, prisons and in personal homes.

It was a clever twist in working backwards through the 1940s describing the scenes that the war brought as well as the development of the characters. As you begin, you automatically want to know more about Kay, Viv, Duncan and Helen and as the tale unfolds (not sure if the book would work as well if it was told chronologically) and how all their lives are seemingly intertwined.

There were a couple of scenes described that made me wince slightly, that is how good I found the descriptive narrative of this book. The atmosphere of the time really shows, and the devestation that the bombing made is shown from the very beginning section of the 40s - 1947, 2 years after the war ended.

The sexual overtones are so subtle that although I had worked out this book was fraught with relationships between same sex couples, it was handled well. (It was only upon doing this review, that I realised Sarah Waters was the author of Tipping the Velvet)

If you want an alternative type of story about the Second World War, then this might be a plesant discovery, it certainly was for me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lesbians in the London Blitz, 9 Feb 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: The Night Watch (Hardcover)
This novel is quite outstanding and the author has to be regarded as one of the best storytellers in the English language. Not only is the novel unique, because it starts in 1947 and ends in 1941, but it also approaches the Second World War in a new and refreshing way. The main characters (mostly gay and lesbian) that would have been treated like outcasts at the time occupy centre stage as the reader identifies with the frustrations and tragedies in their lives. Though they lived dangerously it was also a time of sexual freedom and adventure. The characters find it difficult to get to terms with the grey ordinariness of post-war life and the author reaches back into the darkness of the blitz in order to discover the pivotal moments that shaped the rest of their lives.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 217 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Night Watch
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (Hardcover - 2 Feb 2006)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews