Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize
'Brilliantly done . . . the period detail never overwhelms the simple, passionate human story. It's a tour-de-force of hints, clues and dropped threads' Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday
Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller.
This is the story of four Londoners - three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching . . . Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret . . . Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover . . . Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances . . .
Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the backdrop of feats of heroism both epic and ordinary, here is a novel of relationships that offers up subtle surprises and twists. The Night Watch is thrilling. A towering achievement.
Waters (Fingersmith) applies her talent for literary suspense to WWII-era London in her latest historical. She populates the novel with ordinary people overlooked by history books and sets their individual passions against the chaotic background of extraordinary times. There are Kay, a "night watch" ambulance driver; her lover, Helen; two imprisoned conscientious objectors, upper-class Fraser and working-class Duncan; Duncan's sister, Viv; Viv's married soldier-lover, Reggie; and Julia, a building inspector cum mystery novelist. The novel works backward in time, beginning in 1947, as London emerges from the rubble of war, then to 1944, a time of nightly air raids, and finally to 1941, when the war's end was not in sight. Through all the turmoil on the world stage, the characters steal moments of love, fragments of calm and put their lives on the line for great sex and small kindnesses. Waters's sharply drawn page-turner doesn't quite equal the work of literary greats who've already mapped out WWII-era London. But she matches any of them with her scene of two women on the verge of an affair during a nighttime bombing raid, lost in blackout London with only the light of their passion as a guide.