Friday, August 25, 2006 at 12:56 PM BST
I have just read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. A novel set during World War II focusing on a small group of interconnected people living in London.
‘She supposed that houses, after all - like the lives that were lived in them - were mostly made of space. It was the spaces, in fact, which counted, rather than the bricks.’
There were things I both liked and disliked about this book. The reverse chronology that Waters used (the story was divided into three chunks dated 1947, 1944 and finally 1941) was one of its main strengths. Knowing the outcome of events before encountering the events themselves encouraged questions that lingered throughout and allowed for a few genuine surprises in the plot.
It was also pleasant to read a war novel focusing on non-service people, and indeed mostly women. These were active, working, involved women. These women did not stand nervously by the kitchen sink waiting for their men to return home. However I found the characterisation too be a little too rigid. It was as if each person had a set role and persona to fit that role and they showed little deviation or development as the pages turned.
The novel also read a little on the safe side for me. It felt predictable and old-fashioned in style. It broke no new ground, and did not seem to challenge itself. I feel that my grandmother could enjoy this novel. It was simple book in terms of character and language. Sometimes I enjoy simplicity, but this book read more like a snack than a balanced meal and I doubt it works hard enough to be a Booker winner.