20070328

Night Watch

Sarah Waters - Night Watch

4/5

Rather liked it, occasional longeurs aside; it's incredibly detailed, with some very well-written characters (I was initially a bit wary as she started off by describing then hair colour of the various protagonists, but then I quickly forgot about that and built my own images instead - and boy, does she make it easy to do that). One might argue that the characters are ALL the novel's got going for it, but... well, there's a bit more to it than that.

The reverse-timeline thing bugged me a bit at times - by the time I reach the "beginning" of the book I'm not sure of all the details of how it ended. But for the most part, I thought it worked very well - we see enough of who they ARE to want to find out how they got that way and be willing to do the detective work, even if I would like to know how it "ended" for real (which I suppose is a good sign - I care what happens to them). OK, granted, Helen wasn't my favourite; her defining characteristics are basically insecurity and jealousy, and I found it a bit hard to sympathize with her at times...

2, possibly 3, of the four main characters are gay and the word "queer" (in its proper meaning) seems a bit overused, popping up in every other sentence, but... it does serve a point in that the word "gay" doesn't get used one single time, IIRC. These were queer times, and it's almost so that the "queer" theme of the characters become a metaphor for the whole living-in-war experience - constantly hiding, constantly afraid to let yourself live, to poke your head out because you might get it blown off. As such, it works very well, and I'm sorry to say I must (just as I did with Brokeback Mountain) disagree with the standard complaint that "If the characters had been straight, the same story wouldn't have interested anyone" - because if they had been straight, it wouldn't BE the same story, would it?

The image that will remain with me, though, is Kay sitting in front of her smashed house, grieving a loss she hasn't experienced yet. Very powerful writing, though a bit dragging at times. But... let's give it 4.

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