Monday, May 07, 2007

The Night Watch

Tonight, at a local Starbucks, I finished reading this excellent book by Sarah Waters.
It’s called The Night Watch.
The book was nominated [shortlisted] in 2006 for the Booker. Did not win the prize.
Kiran Desai won, for her book, The Inheritance of Loss.
But wow…. what a great book this Waters one is!
Truly fantastic. As I have not read even one other novel on that 2006 Shortlist, I cannot be a good judge of whether Sarah Waters should have won. But I feel some kind of affinity with the author... [Hah! Pun, since one of her other books is called Affinity, God I am a brick!] “Umm, yeah, Cipriano, some of us are wondering if you are sure you spelled that last word correctly, should it not start with the letter…..”
Thanks for pointing that possibility of error out but “Brick” is what I totallly meant to say……
Anyhoo, as I was saying, a fabulous book and I highly recommend it. By the author’s own admission it is not like her others, per se.
For one thing, while her other books take place in the 19th Century, here in The Night Watch, we are in the 20th, in the period of the 1940’s, during and just after the Second World War.
We are in blacked-out London. Bombs falling everywhere. People trying to get on with their lives, in the midst.
The novel, in three parts, takes a real innovative approach to storytelling… in fact, I am not sure I have seen such a thing done before, and if I have, it must have not been as impressively done, for I forget it, now. However, I shall not soon forget what Sarah Waters created here.
Part 1 takes place in 1947.
Part 2, in 1944.
Part 3, in 1941.
Thus, we are beginning at the end of the story really, and working our way BACK, [in time] as we read.

The remarkable thing is how Waters yet maintains an element of brooding suspense, and truly that suspense is as ominous as the blacked-out streets that everyone shuttles around in, throughout the chapters. In other words, most novelists are relying upon what lies ahead in the road, counting on this as the reason the reader keeps turning pages.
But here things are reversed.
And yet!
For instance, tonight as I was finishing the last section, the final pages, there is a part where [don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything here] the character ______ holds a blade to his/or/her own throat and _____ [another character] watches…. and my God! The crucial moment, when you don’t know what is going to happen [yet you should know, for she has already told us, in previous sections] I had to close the book [I could not turn the page for fear of what I might read there]… take a little walkabout, sort of “rethink my inks” as Chris Farley might say [in Beverley Hills Ninja… ← if you haven’t yet, you should really see that movie…]
My conclusion? She is a genius storyteller, and deserves to be read by every conscious person!

Blacked out streets and bomb shelters.
The author tells us, “It’s about people’s relatively quiet but intense emotional journeys. It’s about people’s experiences of love, and loss, and betrayal.”
Wonderfully researched. The novel completely kept me.
Waters has created scenes [one in particular], that are perhaps some of the most moving, memorable moments of my literary pilgrimage, here on this planet.

Read The Night Watch.
If you don’t like it, I will PERSONALLY send you your money back.
Meet the author, all too briefly, HERE!

-- Cip


Merisi said...

At least somebody is still reading fiction, and what you do sounds really good. Remembrances of Ian MacEwans "Atonement", if only slightly (I loved that book).
I am surprised you actually read books at Starbucks. I love my reading chair too much, and get so little time in it, I rarely read elsewhere (the non-fiction books I am slogging through at the moment I read sitting at a desk, pencil and stick-ons at hand, somehow I feel that's the proper thing to do for not-for-fun reading *g*).

Lisa said...

Great review. I often (very very often) have to close the book when I'm reading. Perhaps I am a wuss, but when the suspense happens I have to take little breaks to deal with it.

Beth said...

Sigh. I've added it to my list. Sounds great.
Interesting - I just finished Suite Francaise - about occupied France in WWII.

(And, yes, you are indeed a BRick!)

piksea said...

I read all the Booker shortlist books that my library carried and I was rooting for 'Night Watch' to win. It was so beautifully written. I loved the way the big picture changed and grew as you went backwards through the characters' histories.