Dressing like a filmstar for a day out

the book:

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.



  1. I really enjoyed this book but felt as you did, Moira, about the structure - couldn't see the point of telling the story backwards. But I love Sarah Waters' writing.

  2. I did enjoy this book although I felt a bit flat afterwords. It seemed more a series of vignettes than a whole story. But the writing was lovely.

  3. Sarah that's a very good description of what I was trying to say! The flat feeling I think comes from the reverse structure doesn't it? And Audrey you obviously felt the same...

  4. Yes, that's right. Sarah has hit the nail on the head - that's a really good point. But there's so much else that's good about it,I'd definitely recommend the book. And great picture, Moira!

  5. Reading The Paying Guests and had to come and check if you'd covered Waters. Some excellent clothes in this one--it was the scene of the two women trying to find a dress suitable for a party that made me think of this blog.

    1. I haven't read it yet Sara - it got caught up in my books embargo of last year - but certainly intend to: she's always an interesting writer. I have very varied reactions to her books, but always read them, and this one sounds good.


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