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Book Title: The Watch Tower|
The author of the book: Elizabeth Harrower
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2659 times
Reader ratings: 6.8
Edition: Text Classics
Date of issue: May 7th 2013
ISBN 13: 9781921922428
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 34.31 MB
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It was interesting reading this Aussie classic written in the 1960s and set at the start of WWII through to the 1940s. The lives and expectations of women were so different at that time so the novel must be read with that in mind.
Laura and Clare Vaizey are happy at their Sydney boarding school when their father dies suddenly and their lives change forever. Fifteen year old Laura had wanted to finish school and study medicine (or become an opera singer) but their cold, unfeeling mother pulls them out of school and sends Laura to secretarial college and Clare to the local school. Laura is also told she must clean and cook and take care of Clare while her mother languishes in bed reading magazines and occasionally going out to bridge. After secretarial school Laura is sent out to work to support the family and finds a job locally with a man called Felix Shaw. When the girls' mother absconds with a man to England just before the start of WWII, Laura and Clare are left to fend for themselves and Laura feels she has no option but to take up Felix's offer to marry her and keep Clare at school. But Felix is not the quiet, gentle, generous man he seems to be, especially when he has been drinking. He plays mind games with the girls and subjects Laura to psychological torture as well as verbal abuse and violence in the form of rages, destroying china and furniture. There are also hints of physical abuse, but mostly it seems to be his bitter and malicious mind that he likes to use to control others. Being 1966, when this was written, sex is never mentioned so we are not told if Felix's cruelty extended to the bedroom.
As Felix has no friends their lives are insular and lonely and revolves around working in Felix's various businesses and going for drives in Felix's car. Gradually over time Laura becomes worn down, and any spark she had of fun and vitality she once had is snuffed out. She spends all her time kowtowing to Felix and living in fear of his outbreaks. Clare fares somewhere better, eventually also attending secretarial school and breaking away to work outside Felix's business and making friends outside the home, but she also bends to Felix's will.
From our modern viewpoint it is difficult to see what these two women would subject themselves to the mental torture inflicted by this controlling man, but women had few options in those days and leaving home to live independently was not easy. It is not until a catalyst, in the form of a stranger coming into their lives, that events are set in motion that lead to Clare's escape.
This was not an enjoyable book to read as I did not like any of the characters however the writing is very sharp and clean and the tension is gradually built to a point where you can feel the girls holding their breath when they here Felix arrive home before they know what sort of mood he is in. It takes a lot of skill to depict a complex monster like Felix, occasionally kind and generous to strangers but with rage not far away. I felt very frustrated that neither Laura nor Clare were able to put up any resistance to the horrible man who controlled their lives and was appalled that he was able to get away with his behaviour. I was also shocked that neighbours, who would comment in the novel on the ruckus of loud voices and furniture being thrown next door, would just ignore it and not call the police not check that the women were okay. Although times have changed and women have more options today, unfortunately there are still women who do put up with men like Felix; those who drink and become violent, or subject women to physical or mental abuse, so it is a book that still resonates today.
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Read information about the authorElizabeth Harrower (born 1928 in Sydney, Australia) is an Australian novelist and short story writer.
Elizabeth Harrower is regarded as one of Australia's most important postwar writers, and is enjoying a recent literary revival. Born in Sydney in 1928, her first novel, Down in the City, was published in 1957 and was followed by The Long Prospect (1958) and The Catherine Wheel (1960). Her most well-known work, The Watch Tower, was published in 1966 to huge acclaim. Four years later she finished In Certain Circles , but withdrew it before publication for reasons she has never publicly spoken of. The manuscript was rediscovered recently by her publisher who felt it should be published immediately. Harrower has since received rave reviews, including comparisons with Emile Zola and F Scott Fitzgerald.
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