The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
published 2006 section set in 1947
‘You look like a film-star,’ said Reggie, as Viv got into his car. He made a show of looking her over. ‘Can I have your autograph?’
‘Just get going, will you?’ she said. She’d been standing in the sun, waiting for him, for half an hour. They moved together and briefly kissed. He let down the handbrake and the car moved off.
She was wearing a light cotton dress and a plum-coloured cardigan, and sunglasses with pale plastic frames; instead of a hat she had a white silk scarf, which she’d tied in a knot beneath her chin. The scarf and the sunglasses looked striking against her hair and the red of her lipstick. She straightened her skirt, making herself comfortable; then wound down her window and sat with her elbow on the sill, her face in the draught – like a girl in an American picture, just as Reggie had said. Slowing the car for a traffic-light, he put his hand on her thigh and murmured admiringly, ‘Oh if the boys in Hendon could only see me now.
observations: Sarah Waters is a great writer – atmosphere, details and appearances are very important in her books, and she does them very well. Also feelings: in this book in particular, she enters the different characters’ heads and makes each one seem real, describing love, jealousy and loneliness in a way to instil head-shaking admiration. But it’s not a book to love – the reverse structure is mysterious: in my naivete I don’t really understand why you would write a book this way? What’s the point? What does it add?
Also, she writes amazing sentences, then (to my eye) trips them up with endless commas separating clauses unnecessarily. For example, in the lines above, why is ‘waiting for him’ marked off with commas? This may be house-style from her publishers – it’s quite noticeable in other modern books too.
But a wonderful writer, all her books well worth reading.
Thanks to Audrey for the suggestion.
Links up with: Sunglasses were an important fashion item in this extract, and Bernadette wears them in this book.
The picture is of a real filmstar, Marilyn Monroe, with her then-husband the playwright Arthur Miller. She has featured before in this entry, and another photo is linked to in this one.