Five words from the blurb: Londoners, 1940s, streets, secrets, liaisons
The Fingersmith is one of my favourite books so I had high expectations for this one. The Night Watch wasn’t quite in the same league, but I was impressed by Waters’ ability to bring war-torn London to life.
The Night Watch begins in 1947 and goes backwards in time, showing how WWII affected four Londoners. It was a fairly quiet book, concentrating on the relationships and emotions of ordinary people living within the capital.
Every scene was vividly described and the characters were all well developed. I’ve read lots of books about WWII, but this was the first to really make me understand what daily life was like for those who weren’t fighting on the front line.
The period detail was fantastic and it was especially nice to recognise the places in London and to learn how landmarks that I am familiar with were utilised or damaged during the war. The resilience of the characters and their attitude to the ever-present danger of the bombings felt accurate and it was nice to see positive stories layered with the darker ones.
The only negative was the lack of forward momentum. I’d heard a lot about the amazing backwards structure of this book, but I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed by it. I felt that it would have been stronger with a conventional timeline as the reversal seemed like a gimmick.
Overall this was a beautifully researched piece of historical fiction, packed with atmosphere. I’d have preferred a stronger narrative, but it is still an impressive book and I recommend it.