About the Book
Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to move from her spot on the field in full view of every soldier in the stark outpost. Her presence quickly proves dangerous as the camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil when the men begin arguing about what to do next.
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s heartbreaking and haunting novel, The Watch, takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan. Taking its cues from the Antigone myth, Roy-Bhattacharya brilliantly recreates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of battle, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers, their families, and by one sister. The result is a gripping tour through the reality of this very contemporary conflict, and our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of war.
This was my choice 3 for Boeke this year. A choice 3 that shoved its way to the front and like a spoilt three-year-old it stomped its foot and demanded to be given a chance. I usually shun away from military books that make me feel like I am an under-achiever and really give nothing to my country and the men who fight so boldly for it.
This book deserves a space on your bookshelf and in your heart. Joydeep has a lyrical style of writing that allows each character to take their space upon the stage and act out their part with emotion, perception and crumbling lives; which this book so eloquently divides into – perspectives and voices (overlapping each other in time and event) that paint a picture, one not too cherry and refrigerator-worthy, for the reader to leave with what they will.
The myth of Antigone is a unique scaffold in which to base this harrowing tale of characters and circumstances – one woman’s quest to bury her brother. Roy-Bhattacharya weaves a bold character of a woman (I haven’t seen a character like this since Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone), one without legs that claws her way to the fortress of an American army base, one recovering from a night long battle, to request the body of her brother. You immediately assume she is the enemy here (a black widow bomber).
So begins the unravelling of each of the soldiers as they question the woman’s intentions and each others. A great impact and huge realisation that an army is not one face, man or body but many individuals – Joydeep gives each soldier a face – and that war makes monsters of men.
I don’t want to give too much away, except the advice to buy this book, enjoy it and then tell me about it. I want to know if you loved it, hated it or merely used it as a coaster!
Tamarin du Toit from I Want a Dodo! and I differ hugely on this book, her review can be found here...
About the Author
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya was educated in politics and philosophy at Presidency College, Calcutta, and the University of Pennsylvania. His novels The Gabriel Cluband, The Storyteller of Marrakesh have been published in fourteen languages. He lives in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.