The night watch, p.1
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       The Night Watch, p.1

           Sarah Waters
The Night Watch


  The Night Watch

  “It is the highest point of a career that has so far been nothing but highs.”

  —The Mail on Sunday

  “A writer whose talent for charting social and political intricacies is matched by her delicate feel for the nuances of erotic attachment…Waters’s strength as a writer lies in her ability to delineate, with authority and compassion, the emotional bonds that link and sometimes entrap all these characters. Waters reveals an instinctive empathy that makes reading The Night Watch a captivating—if occasionally turbulent—experience…. An estimable and moving book.”

  —The New York Times

  “Waters’s storytelling instincts are on the mark…. Elizabeth Bowen once said that ‘the plot of a literary novel is what you have left over after you’ve gotten rid of everything that doesn’t belong.’ The unusual shape and chronology of The Night Watch illustrate this perfectly. The book takes the form it does because that’s the way its powerful, poignant content demanded to go.”

  —The Seattle Times

  “The Night Watch is a book that takes fleeting, seemingly unimportant moments and uses them to illuminate the meaning of an entire human existence.”

  —Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

  “Waters’s historical research and keen eye for detail are present on virtually every page.”

  —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  “Immediately recognizable as a Sarah Waters novel: perfectly pitched, and so involving you feel as if you’re mainlining it rather than merely reading.”

  —Time Out

  “The Night Watch burns with a slow but scorching intensity, like the blasts that constantly put its circle of four Londoners at risk. It is Sarah Waters’s triumph.”

  —Independent on Sunday

  “Full of subtle twists…will delight Waters’s many existing fans, while winning her a whole raft of new ones.”

  —The Express

  “A fine accomplishment. [Waters] weaves the life stories of these characters so skillfully that even amazing coincidences seem inevitable.”

  —Rocky Mountain News

  “The backward structure of The Night Watch is its most intriguing characteristic…. It creates its own sort of reverse suspense.”

  —Houston Chronicle

  “Waters applies her talent for literary suspense to World War II–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. [A] sharply drawn page-turner.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “[A] moody, atmospheric novel…vivid and compelling.”

  —Library Journal

  “Readers will be tempted to return to the beginning of Waters’s elegant novel after turning the final page to fully appreciate the depth of the characters and their connection to each other.”




  2002 Booker Prize Finalist

  “Oliver Twist with a twist: female and sexually aware…This is a Victorian novel the Victorians never dreamed of writing…. An absorbing tale that withholds as much as it discloses. A pulsating story.”

  —The New York Times Book Review

  “A deftly plotted thriller with two equally compelling heroines…An absorbing and elegant story that’s old-fashioned in the best way.”

  —Entertainment Weekly

  “There are always novels that you envy people for not yet having read, for the pleasures they still have to come. Well, this is one. Long, dark, twisted, and satisfying, it’s a fabulous piece of writing, but Waters’s most impressive achievement is that she also makes it feel less like reading, more like living: an unforgettable experience.”

  —The Guardian

  “A marvelous pleasure.”

  —The Washington Post

  “Deliciously brazen…a sophisticated treat.

  —Los Angeles Times

  “[The] energetic plot bristles with scheming villains and lurid details…. Calls to mind the feverishly gloomy haunts of Charlotte and Emily Brontë…elaborate and satisfying.”

  —The Seattle Times

  “Wonderfully evocative…Fantastic and foggy atmospherics…A strong literary work with memorable female characters, à la Moll Flanders or a Brontë heroine…Splendid.”

  —USA Today

  “A sweeping read.”

  —The Boston Globe

  “Waters writes convincingly of Victorian life, evoking Dickens in her rhythms, Henry James in her examination of social order…. A haunting, disturbing, and lovely ode to the universal frailties of the human condition.”

  —Rocky Mountain News

  “The most breathtaking twist I’ve read in recent months. Fingersmith is everything a really good historical thriller should be: convincing, engaging, and surprising.”

  —Toronto Star

  “A modern Wilkie Collins…Brutal, daring, and refreshing…It’s a thriller, yes, but it’s also a love story—a sexy, passionate, and startling one…. Erotic and unnerving in all the right ways.”

  —The Guardian

  “Waters slowly and inexorably builds the tension in this hard-to-put-down novel, which is full of atmospheric details about grand houses, petty slums, and Victorian madhouses. Readers will turn the pages with delighted dread.”

  —Library Journal

  “[An] extraordinary novel…. It is a rare pleasure to discover a writer as startlingly assured and original as Waters.”

  —The Sunday Times (London)

  “A densely plotted Gothic thriller that is equal parts saucy melodrama and women’s history.”

  —The Village Voice

  “Brilliant and chilling storytelling…Vivid…Unforgettable.”

  —The Sunday Telegraph

  “Sarah Waters unveils enough secrets, reversals, and revelations to keep the most demanding fans of Victorian fiction happy and enthralled, bowing to the great novels of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens in ways that are both fanciful and intelligent…. Skillful plotting and plenty of surprises.”

  —New Statesman

  “One of the best books I’ve ever read…A startling plot twist…Nothing in this story is as it seems, and as point of view shifts between Sue and Maud, the reader is in for surprise after surprise.”

  —St. Paul Pioneer Press



  Winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award

  Winner of the Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian and Gay Fiction

  Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award

  Winner of the ALA GLBT Roundtable Book Award

  “The author of Tipping the Velvet displays her incredible talent for the Gothic historical novel in this splendid book about a Victorian women’s prison and the affair there between an inmate and a ‘lady visitor.’”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “Unfolds sinuously and ominously…a powerful plot-twister. The book is multidimensional: a naturalistic look at Victorian society; a truly suspenseful tale of terror; and a piece of elegant, thinly veiled erotica…subtly sensual. Like a Ouija board, Affinity offers different messages to different readers, scaring the shrouds off everyone in the process.”

  —USA Today

  “Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative—Sarah Waters’s second novel is all of these wrapped into one, served up to superbly suspenseful and hypnotic effect…supremely visual…. This is gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and senses.”

  —The Seattle Times

  “[A] haunting study of lust in the shadows of Victorian England set against the backdrop of the late-nineteenth century
s fascination with psychic spiritualism…. An intriguing and accomplished novel, both scary and cerebral at the same time…Superb.”

  —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  “Waters has perfect pitch in her representations of bourgeois Victorian life, the puritanical misery of prisons in the 1870s, and the spiritualist subculture…. A deeply absorbing book.”

  —The Advocate


  Tipping the Velvet

  A New York Times Notable Book

  “Wonderful…A sensual experience that leaves the reader marveling at the author’s craftsmanship, idiosyncrasy, and sheer effort.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “Erotic and absorbing…Written with startling power…Buoyant and accomplished. If lesbian fiction is to reach a wider readership, Waters is the person to carry the banner.”

  —The New York Times Book Review

  “Compelling…Readers of all sexes and orientations should identify with this gutsy hero as she learns who she is and how to love.”


  “Big, bawdy…a story of working-class guts and sexual bravado. Run, don’t walk; this is a rare treat.”

  —Out magazine

  “Lusty and lavish, richly embroidered and boldly rendered, Tipping the Velvet is an amazingly assured debut novel…. An exquisitely penned, rapidly paced, thoroughly entertaining tale that leaves the reader wanting more.”

  —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  “Delectable…written in roguishly lilting prose filled with the sights, sounds, and stenches of London street life.”

  —The Seattle Times

  “Warning: Do not open Tipping the Velvet if you have calls to make, clothes to launder, or deadlines to meet. Just give up and head for the beach until you finish this riotously sexy epic of lesbian London at the dawn of the twentieth century…. Waters is a spellbinding storyteller.”

  —The Advocate


  Tipping the Velvet






  New York


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), Cnr. Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Copyright © 2006 by Sarah Waters.

  All rights reserved.

  RIVERHEAD is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The RIVERHEAD logo is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The Library of Congress had catalogued the Riverhead hardcover edition as follows:

  Waters, Sarah, date.

  The night watch / Sarah Waters.

  p. cm.

  ISBN: 9781101217429

  1. World War, 1939–1945—England—London—Fiction. 2. London (England)—History—Bombardment, 1940–1945—Fiction. 3. Great Britain—History—George VI, 1936–1952—Fiction. 4. London (England)—History—Fiction. I. Title.

  PR6073.A828N54 2006 2005044927



  To Lucy Vaughan

















  So this, said Kay to herself, is the sort of person you’ve become: a person whose clocks and wrist-watches have stopped, and who tells the time, instead, by the particular kind of cripple arriving at her landlord’s door.

  For she was standing at her open window, in a collarless shirt and a pair of greyish underpants, smoking a cigarette and watching the coming and going of Mr Leonard’s patients. Punctually, they came—so punctually, she really could tell the time by them: the woman with the crooked back, on Mondays at ten; the wounded soldier, on Thursdays at eleven. On Tuesdays at one an elderly man came, with a fey-looking boy to help him: Kay enjoyed watching for them. She liked to see them making their slow way up the street: the man neat and dark-suited as an undertaker, the boy patient, serious, handsome—like an allegory of youth and age, she thought, as done by Stanley Spencer or some finicky modern painter like that. After them there came a woman with her son, a little lame boy in spectacles; after that, an elderly Indian lady with rheumatics. The little lame boy would sometimes stand scuffing up moss and dirt from the broken path to the house with his great boot, while his mother spoke with Mr Leonard in the hall. Once, recently, he’d looked up and seen Kay watching; and she’d heard him making a fuss on the stairs, then, about going on his own to the lavatory.

  ‘Is it them angels on the door?’ she had heard his mother say. ‘Good heavens, they’re only pictures! A great boy like you!’

  Kay guessed it wasn’t Mr Leonard’s lurid Edwardian angels that frightened him, but the thought of encountering her. He must have supposed she haunted the attic floor like a ghost or a lunatic.

  He was right, in a way. For sometimes she walked restlessly about, just as lunatics were said to. And other times she’d sit still, for hours at a time—stiller than a shadow, because she’d watch the shadows creeping across the rug. And then it seemed to her that she really might be a ghost, that she might be becoming part of the faded fabric of the house, dissolving into the gloom that gathered, like dust, in its crazy angles.

  A train ran by, two streets away, heading into Clapham Junction; she felt the thrill and shudder of it in the sill beneath her arms. The bulb in a lamp behind her shoulder sprang into life, flickered for a second like an irritated eye, and then went out. The clinker in the fireplace—a brutal little fireplace; this had been a room for a servant, once—gently collapsed. Kay took a final draw on her cigarette, then pinched out the flame of it between her forefinger and thumb.

  She had been standing at her window for more than an hour. It was a Tuesday: she’d seen a snub-nosed man with a wasted arm arrive, and had been waiting, in a vague kind of way, for the Stanley Spencer couple. But now she’d decided to give up on them. She’d decided to go out. The day was fine, after all: a day in the middle of a warm September, the third September after the war. She went through to the room, next to
this one, that she used as a bedroom, and began to get changed.

  The room was dim. Some of the window-glass had been lost, and Mr Leonard had replaced it with lino. The bed was high, with a balding candlewick bedspread: the sort of bed that turned your thoughts, not pleasantly, to the many people who must, over the years, have slept on it, made love on it, been born on it, died on it, thrashed around on it in fevers. It gave off a slightly sour scent, like the feet of worn stockings. But Kay was used to that, and didn’t notice. The room was nothing to her but a place in which to sleep or to lie sleepless. The walls were empty, featureless, just as they had been when she’d moved in. She’d never hung up a picture or put out books; she had no pictures or books; she didn’t have much of anything. Only, in one of the corners, had she fixed up a length of wire; and on this, on wooden hangers, she kept her clothes.

  The clothes, at least, were very neat. She picked her way through them now and found a pair of nicely darned socks, and some tailored slacks. She changed her shirt to a cleaner one, a shirt with a soft white collar she could leave open at the throat, as a woman might.

  But her shoes were men’s shoes; she spent a minute polishing them up. And she put silver links in her cuffs, then combed her short brown hair with brushes, making it neat with a touch of grease. People seeing her pass in the street, not looking at her closely, often mistook her for a good-looking youth. She was regularly called ‘young man’, and even ‘son’, by elderly ladies. But if anyone gazed properly into her face, they saw at once the marks of age there, saw the white threads in her hair; and in fact she would be thirty-seven on her next birthday.

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