Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Last weekend, I finished the first book on my From the Stacks Challenge list, but the business of starting back to work kept me from finding time to post my review of it. Well, here it is.

The Night Watch
begins just after WWII in 1947 then goes back in time to 1944 then goes further back to 1941. While I enjoyed some of the characters and the stories of their relationships, I was not satisfied by the outcome of this book. Usually when a story is structured in reverse chronological order, there is some significant event in the present of the story that is explained with the past events. I didn't feel that the past of these characters and their relationships lived up to the promise of the structure of this novel. I thought the past left too many questions in the present unanswered.

While I wasn't impressed with the plot of the novel, I was extremely impressed with the mood of the novel. I felt the uncertainty and fear of living in a war zone with the very real threat of being killed by a bomb night after night. The description of the devastation to people and buildings is particularly vivid.

I have never read any of Waters's other novels, and I am not a big fan of historical fiction, but I don't think either of these facts are what kept me from being satisfied with this novel. I never felt drawn in enough by the characters or events. Maybe the distance was intentional or necessary to create the fragmentary feeling of living in a place literally being torn apart by war. Except for the 1947 section, most of the events of the novel occur at night, hence the title, and I think that might have had something to do with the distant feeling, but I can't quite articulate why.

I have read a bit more than half of the next book on my challenge list, Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood. I hope to be finished with it in a day or two and be faster with my review of it.

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