Sarah Waters leaves behind the intimate tricks and turns of Victorian life for a simply truthful study of wartime alienation, The Night Watch, says Philip Hensher
Sunday January 8, 2006
When a novelist with a passionate following and, up until now, a special niche, changes tack, she is taking quite a risk. It might prove that her appeal really lies in the setting, in the gorgeously appointed scenery, rather than anything distinctly hers. On the other hand, a novelist who removes herself from the scene of her familiar triumphs may become more distinct in our minds. We might start to see her particular preoccupations: images that make themselves clear whatever the setting; preferred rhythms of plot; unchanging corners of society. The Night Watch, with its austerity-period and wartime setting, is certainly quite a risk; but Waters emerges from it as a still-more-characterful and boldly flavoured novelist. I felt afterwards I knew better what sort of writer she really is.
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