“Watch Over Me” by Claire Corbett (2017) Review

It’s not often you come across a thriller that channels current world issues in both a traditional yet modern way. Although I appreciated and respected the author’s ability to tackle these topics, I found myself frustrated by the narrative choices and longed to focus on other aspects rather than the ones chosen.

Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett follows 19 year old Sylvie who’s world is under occupation and taken over by Garrison soldiers. With themes of war, conflict and romance, Watch Over Me may paint itself as another tale of star crossed lovers but in reality it couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t be fooled by Sylvie’s age too. This isn’t a young adult fiction even though it’s easy to misread it because of the books blurb. If I’m being quite honest, I never expected the novel to go the way it did.

The romantic aspect behind Watch Over Me went in ways I never expected and to be honest ways I didn’t really want. Because of how the story was initially presented to me through both the blurb beforehand and in the early stages of the novel, the complexity and extremity of Sylvie and Will’s abrupt relationship put me off the novel and the narrative. This was mainly because of the amount of time that was spent on describing their sex life and his possession over her. On one hand, Corbett has compared her novel to the likes of real life occupations in war time and the relationships between man and woman; I completely respect that and her approach to the topic because it’s a real thing that happens even though it can be difficult to imagine. On the other, I wasn’t sure of its purpose in regard to the narrative arc and where the story would end up.

As mentioned, a large chunk of the novel focused on the romance between Sylvie and Will (which shouldn’t really be classed as a romance given the circumstances) but, in the beginning of the novel, the scene was set for great world building potential. Looking back, I only wished the novel stayed with the same focus and detail in regard to the complex ideas of Sylvie’s world, those around her and where it would go rather than singular, repetitive moments. Various side characters that were introduced seemed interesting and complex too but we as a reader never spent enough time with them to get to know them or grow attached to them.

Sometimes novels don’t pan out in ways you’d expect; this can either be a good thing or a bad thing. In spite of my frustration by Watch Over Me‘s narrative choices, other readers will perhaps enjoy the exploration into Sylvie’s attraction towards Will and their complex relationship.

2/5

Book supplied by Allen and Unwin NZ  – (RRP: $32.99). Click here for details.