For a variety of reasons I won’t go into, I have been restless and having trouble finding books that really grab me. Looking for something different I decided to buy The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. I can’t recall if I had read some positive reviews of the book or it just caught my attention at the bookstore. But it seemed to offer something different from my regular reading and a perspective that might challenge me.
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.
While I enjoyed the book for the most part, and found much of the writing well done, it just seemed to be trying to hard to be literary and topical. I kept waiting for something that would tie the threads together or offer larger insight, clarity or perspective but it never really delivered.
There were some interesting perspectives on war, and the intense pressure it creates, and some well done character sketches but not enough energy to carry it through or make the parts into a larger whole. There was also nothing particularly unique about the way things are framed. And at times it borders on a clichéd anti-war perspective. I really don’t think it challenges anyone’s thinking but rather likely reinforces the perspective you bring to the book.
I was also disappointed in the supposed connection to Antigone. I read the famous play in advance hoping it would help me see the connection or gain additional insight into the author’s lens. But instead this thread, specifically noted in the book’s marketing, seems forced and not all that related to the original story.
So overall verdict? Enjoyable in some ways but ended up falling flat – couldn’t fulfill the expectations.