I really like Sarah Waters. Her other novels all feature Victorian lesbians. Affinity is a very spooky, claustrophobic thriller/love story/spoiler about a medium imprisoned after a seance goes horribly wrong, and the woman who visits her in prison. Tipping the Velvet is a very fun picaresque which bounces from oyster bars to theatres to the rooms of kept girls. Fingersmith is a wild thriller which doesn't entirely make sense in places, but is one hell of a ride. I recommend all of those. Some people hate Affinity because of the DO NOT SPOIL ending, but it's my favorite.

The Night Watch is well-written and gripping, but lacks the excitement, passion, and sense of joyous discovery that permeate Waters' other books. (Even her tragedies seem like she had fun writing them, even if the characters didn't have fun living them.) It's about the intertwined lives of several Londoners after and during the Blitz, and is told backwards in time. This narrative device is not arbitrary, and provides for a few interesting discoveries and poignant moments; but it also makes the entire book quite depressing, as we already know how everyone will end up, and nobody ends up better than "maybe, just maybe, they will now take a tiny step toward improving their life," and some of them don't even get that.

Several years after the war is over, everyone is miserable. Kay, the butch former ambulance driver, is mired in post-traumatic stress, depression, and agoraphoia; Duncan, the young former prisoner, is living with an old man and collecting worthless antiques; his sister Vi, a young woman, is stuck in a loveless and passionless affair with a married man; and Helen, whom I regret to say that I HATE, is obsessively jealous of her lover, the cold writer Julia whom I also kind of hate.

After a long section exploring their lives, the narrative jumps back to the Blitz, and we see who they were before, what their relationships were, and some light is shed on the more myserious elements of the first section. At the end of this, the concluding section jumps back even further, to the start of the Blitz; the concluding scene is lovely, but intensely depressing because we know how that particular relationship worked out.

I was fascinated by Kay, the heroic ambulance driver, her work rescuing victims of the air raids, and the society of butch volunteers she hung out with. I could have happily read an entire book about her and her friend Mickey, whom I loved with a passion disproportionate to her brief appearances. The other characters either interested me less, or their situations interested me less; the reason Duncan was in jail was tragic and not a story often told, but he was a rather opaque character and so were the men he interacted with; I liked his sister Vi, but except for her brief but wonderful interaction with Kay, her story was mostly about loving a married jerk and that has been told a million times; Helen and Julia I just didn't like, ever, and the more I learned about them, the less time I wanted to spend in their company, even on paper.

Worth reading if you're a Waters fan, but not a good introduction. It did make me want to read more about the Blitz, though. (Two of my favorite short stories of all time are set there, Connie Willis' "Fire Watch" ("deaths: one cat") and "Jack.") Any recommendations? Especially, any recommendations for fact or fiction featuring lesbians and/or people doing the more dramatic sort of volunteer work, search and rescue, fire watch, ambulance drivers, and the like?
I really like Sarah Waters. Her other novels all feature Victorian lesbians. Affinity is a very spooky, claustrophobic thriller/love story/spoiler about a medium imprisoned after a seance goes horribly wrong, and the woman who visits her in prison. Tipping the Velvet is a very fun picaresque which bounces from oyster bars to theatres to the rooms of kept girls. Fingersmith is a wild thriller which doesn't entirely make sense in places, but is one hell of a ride. I recommend all of those. Some people hate Affinity because of the DO NOT SPOIL ending, but it's my favorite.

The Night Watch is well-written and gripping, but lacks the excitement, passion, and sense of joyous discovery that permeate Waters' other books. (Even her tragedies seem like she had fun writing them, even if the characters didn't have fun living them.) It's about the intertwined lives of several Londoners after and during the Blitz, and is told backwards in time. This narrative device is not arbitrary, and provides for a few interesting discoveries and poignant moments; but it also makes the entire book quite depressing, as we already know how everyone will end up, and nobody ends up better than "maybe, just maybe, they will now take a tiny step toward improving their life," and some of them don't even get that.

Several years after the war is over, everyone is miserable. Kay, the butch former ambulance driver, is mired in post-traumatic stress, depression, and agoraphoia; Duncan, the young former prisoner, is living with an old man and collecting worthless antiques; his sister Vi, a young woman, is stuck in a loveless and passionless affair with a married man; and Helen, whom I regret to say that I HATE, is obsessively jealous of her lover, the cold writer Julia whom I also kind of hate.

After a long section exploring their lives, the narrative jumps back to the Blitz, and we see who they were before, what their relationships were, and some light is shed on the more myserious elements of the first section. At the end of this, the concluding section jumps back even further, to the start of the Blitz; the concluding scene is lovely, but intensely depressing because we know how that particular relationship worked out.

I was fascinated by Kay, the heroic ambulance driver, her work rescuing victims of the air raids, and the society of butch volunteers she hung out with. I could have happily read an entire book about her and her friend Mickey, whom I loved with a passion disproportionate to her brief appearances. The other characters either interested me less, or their situations interested me less; the reason Duncan was in jail was tragic and not a story often told, but he was a rather opaque character and so were the men he interacted with; I liked his sister Vi, but except for her brief but wonderful interaction with Kay, her story was mostly about loving a married jerk and that has been told a million times; Helen and Julia I just didn't like, ever, and the more I learned about them, the less time I wanted to spend in their company, even on paper.

Worth reading if you're a Waters fan, but not a good introduction. It did make me want to read more about the Blitz, though. (Two of my favorite short stories of all time are set there, Connie Willis' "Fire Watch" ("deaths: one cat") and "Jack.") Any recommendations? Especially, any recommendations for fact or fiction featuring lesbians and/or people doing the more dramatic sort of volunteer work, search and rescue, fire watch, ambulance drivers, and the like?
3 August 1873

I was never so frightened as I am now. They have left me sitting in the dark, with only the light from the window to write by. They have put me in my own room, they have locked the door on me. They wanted Ruth to do it, but she would not. She said, "What, do you want me to lock up my own mistress, who has done nothing?" In the end the doctor took the key from her & locked the door himself, then made her leave me. Now the house is full of voices, all saying my name. If I close my eyes & listen it might be any ordinary night. I might be waiting for Mrs. Brink to come & take me downstairs to a dark circle, & Madeleine or any girl might be there, blushing, thinking of Peter, of Peter's great dark whiskers & shining hands.

But Mrs. Brink is lying quite alone in her own cold bed, & Madeleine Silvester is downstairs weeping in a fit. And Peter Quick is gone, I think for ever.

#

I idly picked up this book at a friend's house, read the first page, then ran out to buy a copy for myself. Is that a great opening paragraph or what?

ETA: The book was in her closet, which I had opened to look for the laundry detergent, and discovered that it was full of books. Upon later questioning, she said that she hadn't read the book and didn't remember buying it. Spoooooky....

A Victorian lady with several secrets to conceal decides a little charitable work will help her recover from a recent illness. She starts visiting the inmates of a women's prison, and soon becomes entangled with one of the prisoners, Selina Dawes, who is a medium who was arrested after a seance went horribly wrong. The excerpt I quoted at the beginning is from Selina's diary, which recounts the events leading up to her imprisonment. This is intercut into the present-day sections, which are the diary of the lady visitor.

This is one of those books where the less you know about it going in, the better. (I may put up a spoiler-cut post to discuss it further if anyone else has already read it.) It's scary (but not horror-graphic) and sexy (despite containing no sex per se) and well-researched and well-written and tremendously gripping. I think the majority of you all would like it, and several of you would love it.

All I really have to say other than that is that I don't know why no one has ever mentioned Waters to me before. I was excited to learn that she has written two other books, Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet, and disappointed that it was only two. Has anyone read those? How are they?
3 August 1873

I was never so frightened as I am now. They have left me sitting in the dark, with only the light from the window to write by. They have put me in my own room, they have locked the door on me. They wanted Ruth to do it, but she would not. She said, "What, do you want me to lock up my own mistress, who has done nothing?" In the end the doctor took the key from her & locked the door himself, then made her leave me. Now the house is full of voices, all saying my name. If I close my eyes & listen it might be any ordinary night. I might be waiting for Mrs. Brink to come & take me downstairs to a dark circle, & Madeleine or any girl might be there, blushing, thinking of Peter, of Peter's great dark whiskers & shining hands.

But Mrs. Brink is lying quite alone in her own cold bed, & Madeleine Silvester is downstairs weeping in a fit. And Peter Quick is gone, I think for ever.

#

I idly picked up this book at a friend's house, read the first page, then ran out to buy a copy for myself. Is that a great opening paragraph or what?

ETA: The book was in her closet, which I had opened to look for the laundry detergent, and discovered that it was full of books. Upon later questioning, she said that she hadn't read the book and didn't remember buying it. Spoooooky....

A Victorian lady with several secrets to conceal decides a little charitable work will help her recover from a recent illness. She starts visiting the inmates of a women's prison, and soon becomes entangled with one of the prisoners, Selina Dawes, who is a medium who was arrested after a seance went horribly wrong. The excerpt I quoted at the beginning is from Selina's diary, which recounts the events leading up to her imprisonment. This is intercut into the present-day sections, which are the diary of the lady visitor.

This is one of those books where the less you know about it going in, the better. (I may put up a spoiler-cut post to discuss it further if anyone else has already read it.) It's scary (but not horror-graphic) and sexy (despite containing no sex per se) and well-researched and well-written and tremendously gripping. I think the majority of you all would like it, and several of you would love it.

All I really have to say other than that is that I don't know why no one has ever mentioned Waters to me before. I was excited to learn that she has written two other books, Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet, and disappointed that it was only two. Has anyone read those? How are they?
.

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags