The Night Watch: Timeline

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The Night Watch: Timeline

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jul 13, 2015, 12:00pm

How did the reversal of the way the chunks of time were presented in the story (moving from 1947 -> 1944 -> 1941) impact your impressions of the characters? Did knowing where they ended up first, and then finding out where they began change how you felt about them? Why/why not? Did anything surprise you about them? Do you think you'd feel differently if the timeline were presented in chronological order rather than reverse-chronological?

jul 13, 2015, 3:48pm

As I said in another post, I found the backwards timeline true to life. We meet people in the present, and their back-stories become increasingly known to us as our relationship deepens.

jul 14, 2015, 12:19pm

I think I would have liked the book more with a forward timeline. I didn't find the characters as presented in the first chapter particularly interesting, so had no real incentive to find out how they got that way.

jul 14, 2015, 12:58pm

I agree with LynnB that it feels true-to-life, getting to know the characters in the present and then later learning more about their past... but I ended up feeling there were so many questions left un-answered due to the plot moving backwards rather than forwards. That scene where Helen and Kay and Julia all meet up, Kay is afraid that Helen's died in the bombing, while Helen is coming to break up with Kay... On the one hand, it was kind of a heart-rending scene, it's not like I *wanted* it to be played out in more gruesome detail (and we know how it ends up - of course Helen will leave Kay), but on the other hand, I felt like that scene was kind of broken off so abruptly and then we suddenly travel back in time and we'll never know anything more about that.

In general, I think the reader is inclined to feel sympathetic towards Kay, who does such selfless work through the book and is so devoted to Helen, but I feel like we don't get to know Kay as well as we might, because of the back-in-time plot-line.

There's something interesting and true about the backwards structure, but also I'm not totally crazy about it. It made for a kind of suspenseful and interesting read, but I think I was expecting something in the events of the story to explain to me why the plot was going backwards, or expected it to appear as a theme in the book, somehow, but I don't think it did. Now I've finished the book and I'm wondering why she chose to structure it that way, and whether I might've preferred it the other way. I'm actually re-reading the first few chapters, knowing what I know now, to revisit the characters in 1947.

jul 25, 2015, 3:43pm

I was just a little confused by the backward timeline. I kept getting thoughts of wondering what happens next and then remembering that I've already read about what happens next and maybe my particular question had not been addressed in the first part of the book. I caught myself in this way several times. I wonder if I read enough of these "backward timeline" things, if I might start wondering about what happened before to lead the characters to this point?

Does anyone know of another book laid out in this way?

jul 26, 2015, 8:05am

Graham Swift's Last Orders is laid out this way.

jul 29, 2015, 9:39pm

I liked the backwards timeline. It was more of a challenge to read but I liked trying to guess things and then when we got to the part where the explanation was made it was fun to say "well, I was close" or "missed that one completely".

Redigeret: aug 1, 2015, 9:10pm

I agree with 2 commenters above--- I think the meeting of the characters, present day and hearing how they got there was more true to life but knowing they survived tainted the intensity of some of the scenes. Also, I agree that we didn't get to know Kay as well as the other characters... her life now more as a loner or recluse. I feel sad for her on that day that she was so emotionally wrecked at thinking her lover was killed only to come to the realization that she was abandoned by her.