Hollis Seamon, novelist and College of Saint Rose professor , weighs in with oen of her top picks:
“One of my favorite books of 2006 was recommended by my former student and current lawyer, Pat Grattan, a man who reads more than almost anyone I know. The book is The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, a novel in which the events take place in London during and just after World War II. The prose here is terrific, as is the set of characters. Throughout the novel, the four main characters pair up, unpair, mix together in a new pattern, separate again, and come up in an altogether different combination. Waters choreographs a complicated human dance that occurs amid blackout, food rationing, falling bombs, and fallen lives. The most compelling section of the book, for me, happens during the blitz, when two of the characters serve as ambulance drivers in the battered city, moving through their horrific nightly duties with a kind of outward sang-froid that (barely) hides their inward trembling. The novel has an odd–and sometimes disorienting–structure, beginning in the year 1947 and moving in backward chronology to 1941. A reader, then, is not trying to figure out what happens to whom so much as how it all came about. I think that a conventional chronology might have served this story better but no matter: the book is compelling, end to beginning.
“And Waters’ previous novel, Fingersmith, is one of my all-time favorites: set in Victorian London, it is a wild tour-de-force of doubling motifs: a pair of orphaned girls whose paternities, and even maternities, are uncertain; stolen identities; dishonor among thieves; plot twist upon plot twist. This novel reads as if Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, all of the Brontes (including the no-good drunken brother), Angela Carter, and Sarah Waters all got together in some otherwordly writer’s workshop/seance and collaborated to create a brilliantly diabolical plot.”
Hollis Seamon’s novel Flesh was published in 2005 (http://www.avocetpress.com); her collection of short stories, Body Work, came out in 2000 (http://www.springharborpress.com) .