Fingersmith vs. The Night Watch

While Fingersmith is a tremendous work of fiction, The Night Watch is utterly boring. Both novels were written by Sarah Waters. She has a verbose style that matches the elaborate schemes in her books. Fingersmith should be approached with reckless innocence. I recommend to read it without any prior knowledge of the plot. If you do want to read a summary, stay away from those at Wikipedia and Amazon; they spoil a lot of the twists and turns of the story. While the book is still a great read if you know what’s going to happen (like I did), I can only imagine the impression it leaves on those who expect “just” a romantic novel set in 1862. The Night Watch, on the other hand, is set in the 1940s, again in and around London. I forced myself to read the whole thing. The connections between the main characters are somewhat loose; the plot doesn’t really deserve that name, because it’s totally arbitrary. There are a couple of horrible events, not to mention the war. Despite the mastery of language, the words on the pages remain distant. There’s little, if any, suspense. I kept expecting a spectacular event, a connection between all of the main characters, anything, but the arbitrary, personal fates described throughout the 470 pages. (I will now “spoil” the structure of the book, but I’d say: just read on…) The first part is set in 1947, the second in 1944, and the third (and last) in 1941. So it’s a bit like you get to read the ending of the story, first. If you read the parts in chronological order, the whole thing would be incredibly disappointing. Read it the way it is printed, be ready for a boring ride with no distinct conclusion. My suggestion is, of course, to not read it at all. Check out Fingersmith, instead, which has also been made into a solid movie in 2005 by the BBC.