§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Night Watch by Sara Waters

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Night Watch by Sara Waters

I don’t seem to have been as enchanted by this novel as others have been. In fact, I probably would not have finished it had I not been reading it for a group. That said, I’m glad I did because it got better as it went along and there were a number of things I liked about it.

First I liked the setting, wartime in London—one of those times in history that was probably horrible to have to live through, but which in retrospect seems very romantic. There’s a scene in the book where two characters go wandering at night, from Bloomsbury into the City, and because I’ve walked a lot in London, I recognized the streets and the churches mentioned. If time travel were possible, I’d want to take a walk just like that—there could be raids going on as long as they weren’t too close. Waters’ research on the period works but doesn’t stick out.

Second, I liked the structure. The novel is divided into three parts, each labeled by the date, in reverse order: 1947, 1944, 1941. It follows four main characters and their relationships with each other and with others, so you see the effects of the past before you actually know what happened. It’s a neat way to create suspense and it works in this case.

What I didn’t like was that the novel focused so minutely on the relationships between characters. There was virtually no exposition. Everything was a detailed scene focused on people interacting. If there was a description of a scene, it came out because a character noticed it. A huge portion of it was dialog or the narrator reporting what a character was thinking. It was exclusively a novel about the psychological interactions among the characters. So early on I was bored. They weren’t terribly interesting people to begin with and besides I like novels with more than just character and psychology.

Nevertheless, it’s extremely well done. The suspense builds slowly and the explosive scenes (near the end) are effective. The characters become interesting by virtue of the time spent with them.


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