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 what she claims to be: a grieving sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? As she persists, single-minded in her mission, the camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil as the men argue about what to do next.
The book employs the Rashomon effect where perspective shifts from character to character, all in first person, describing a single event. Instead of adding different viewpoints or additional information to enhance the story, this turns out be a tedious writing exercise for the author’s benefit alone. Each chapter is dedicated to a different soldier, while only two chapters are dedicated to Afghan characters: the woman intent on retrieving her brother’s body, and the interpreter. Much of the soldiers’ flashbacks and dialogue come across as moralistic diatribes, while at the same time it portrays stereotypes of military men (trigger happy sniper, world-weary vet, medic who reads the Bible and the Koran, bullies who are only somebody in the army…).
This book was painful to read, not only because the story was lacking, the author uses no quotation marks whatsoever. Maybe The Watch is brilliant as the book, like war in itself is a huge disappointment. I was hoping for a big reveal – what was the point of questioning the Afghan woman’s intentions if they were never really other than what she claimed them to be from the beginning? This is not even explored after a certain point in the story. Even a chapter on the deceased brother, the so-called Prince of the Mountains could have made this book interesting. Unfortunately, this book is not one I can recommend.
Fellow judge, Kelly from It’s a Book Thing disagrees completely, here’s her review.