Top positive review
Menacing, psychological read
Reviewed in Australia on 17 February 2014
The Watch Tower starts ominously: "now that your father's gone -.......dead" she corrected herself firmly, with a trace of malice."
And the oppression, the malevolence just does not ease.
The Watch Tower is set in 1940's Sydney. Schoolgirls Laura and Clare have recently lost their father; shortly thereafter their narcissistic mother abandons them for London. But this is not before she sees Laura married to the much older Felix. And what the mother leaves, the husband continues. So Laura and Clare lurch from being ignored, disregarded and overlooked to being abused, manipulated, coerced, controlled and ruined.
Harrower vividly describes the stomach churning fear as Felix returns home: "she turned immobile as marble and Clare did, too............Breaking their poses like trees snapping branches, the women urgently regarded each other, cleared away all signs of work in an instant, examined their souls for defects, in a sense crossed themselves, and waited."
It is innumerable scenes like this, layered, that provide us with a deep psychological insight and understanding of how this has come to be. Laura's overwhelming need to please, to subjugate herself, sees her rationalise Felix's behaviour. Thus, for Laura, hope always remains in the relationship. However Clare is able to "watch" and has more insight and perception- she sees the atrocity for what it is. Detaching when it becomes all too much, but never losing sight that this is wrong. But obligation roots her. How do the girls fare? I urge you to read and find out.
It should be noted that the violence is not overtly explicit in The Watch Tower; it is this adept handling that provides the permeating, claustrophobic malevolence.
At times I did find some paragraphs confusing (this may be a generational gap of reading a book written in the 60's) and sometimes overly tedious, but overall so well written and providing us with such insight that this is a book difficult to pass. Read to understand the entrapment and cycle of abuse.