Book Review: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

The Night Watch
by Sarah Waters

Publication date: 2006
Publisher: Virago
Pages: 506


Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit partying, and sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch tells the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past – whose lives, and those of their friends and lovers, connect in tragedy, stunning surprise and exquisite turns, only to change irreversibly in the shadow of a grand historical event. 

Source: Goodreads


I asked for a couple of Sarah Waters books for Christmas having loved “The Paying Guests” and really enjoyed “Affinity” too.

Despite expecting to fall in love again, I’d been putting “The Night Watch” off because I know that a book of this size is a real commitment. Now I’ve finally finished, 500 pages later, I’m must say that I’ve been left feeling a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely didn’t dislike this book! This story is full of wonderful dialogue and description, I just think that I went in with exceedingly high expectations.

“The Night Watch” is set in London during the 1940s, weaving through the lives of several women and the odd man. This era is split into three non-linear parts starting with 1947 then 1944 and finally 1941, so the story works backwards. I don’t think I’ve ever read something like this before, but it worked. From the start you wanted to know how the lives of Kay, Helen, Viv, and Duncan ended up this way.

“She wished for a moment that they were all children again. It still seemed extraordinary to her, that everything had turned out the way it had.” 

With very long chapters (typical of Waters’ style), I found this book to be slow. The characters aren’t the most memorable and there’s not much happening to pick up the pace. I didn’t have a strong desire to get back to this sad and depressing story and where both “Affinity” and “The Paying Guests” had a clear plot, here the plot was far less obvious. What differs here is the focus on a wider variety of characters. The relationships between them are less intense and I didn’t feel a strong connection to any of them.

Even though it wasn’t my favourite, I liked “The Night Watch” and can’t wait to sink into “Fingersmith” which is currently sitting on my shelf!

Overall rating: “The Night Watch” is the third Sarah Waters book I’ve read. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous two and didn’t feel such strong connections with these characters, but don’t let that put you off, Waters is an amazing writer I’d highly recommend.

See my other reviews of books by Sarah Waters here:

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

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