An ambitious, clever concept, just ever so slightly muddled in places.
I love Sarah Waters' writing style. She has this uncanny knack of bringing characters to life by using the unsaid as much as the said - and that's an impressive thing to carry off. Most of her books I've really enjoyed, and this was no exception, though I did have some minor reservations.
Firstly, let's outline the story. It travels backwards through time (from the aftermath of the Second World War to the start of it), and follows several characters: Kay, who is ever the gentleman and seems destined to be taken the p*ss out of by her girlfriends, Helen, who seems anchorless and rather lost, Julia the enigmatic, cold author, Duncan, who is painfully vulnerable and relatively defenseless in virtually all situations, and Viv, who is having an affair.
All the lives seem woven into one another, as we travel back in time, learning how they met / separated, and the traumas and trials they've endured in the past.
It's an enormously clever approach to a novel, and as always, Waters' rich cast of characters and locations pulled me in right from the start. Every aspect of London in the 1940s is portrayed with confidence and conviction, leaving the reader feeling as though they're right there in the action.
However, I wouldn't say that the ingenious concept quite paid off, because there were a few times that I was a little confused (especially at the start), and also, there was information that was omitted at the start (the 'later' scenes) that didn't feel quite authentic - it seemed unlikely that it wouldn't be mentioned, and seemed to have been withheld deliberately, in order to prolong the reader's interest. Whilst this is fine, it would have been better if it hadn't been so obvious.
But overall, I thought this was a great novel - if you're a fan of her previous books, it's well worth reading.