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The Watch: A Novel Hardcover – June 5, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Youngblood: A Novel by Matt Gallagher
"Youngblood" by Matt Gallagher
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2012: A legless woman approaches a military outpost in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province, ostensibly to retrieve the body of her brother, who has been killed in a firefight. Having survived that firefight, the soldiers inside the compound are wary and edgy. That's the setup to a taut and gritty story that unfolds amid the dust, shadows, and unease of one slice of the war in Afghanistan. Playing with the myth of Antigone, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya has crafted an eloquent and intimate look at the types of events still occurring on a daily basis. At the Tarsandan combat outpost, as the woman refuses to leave and questions mount about her true intentions, everything comes into question--what's right and wrong? why are we here? Barbaric, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and lyrical, this is a primal and beautiful work. And a page-turner to the very last page. --Neal Thompson


“We watch as the resistance of an isolated American garrison in Afghanistan is ground down, not by force of arms but by the will of a single unarmed woman, holding inflexibly to an idea of what is just and right.”
–J.M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize and a two-time Man Booker Prize winner

“Roy-Bhattacharya re-animates the timeless themes of Antigone…This brave, visceral novel breaks new ground and does what previous versions of Antigone never have: It makes each character deeply humane, challenging the reader to sympathize with every one of them.” –NPR.org

“[The novel] achieves a subtle balance of dramatic forces—personal morality and public order, duty to God and duty to country—that gives it a philosophical depth and wrenching humanity…Mr. Roy-Bhattacharya brings a rigorous and often disquieting sense of empathy to each of his clashing characters. There is no outright villain here, only the collision of people stubbornly holding to what they believe to be right and honorable. This is the essence of tragedy, and it makes The Watch the first great novel of the war in Afghanistan.” –Wall Street Journal

“An engaging work of timeless imagination, both vivid and gritty.” –Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

The Watch is an important war novel.” –Dallas News
“Antigone, the mythological heroine of Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old drama, pleads with King Creon to allow her to bury her brother, who died in battle. It must be done or the gods will be unhappy. A beautiful re-enactment of this tragedy plays out in the dust of a forlorn outpost in Afghanistan when a young woman parks herself outside a fort and pleads with American soldiers stationed there to give her the body of her brother slain in the conflict…So worthwhile to read this lyrical drama about the horror of war to find out.” –New Jersey Star Ledger, Kathleen Daley
“A heartbreaking and haunting look at the nature and reality of war.” –Wichita Eagle, Watermark Books New & Recommended
“The fog of war doesn't begin to describe what awaits the American soldiers in Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's novel The Watch … Roy-Bhattacharya consulted with front-line officers to get his details right. His description of the firefight in a sandstorm is gripping and terrifying; so are his overlapping accounts of the ethical and military decisions that young men, fatigued, distraught and unsupported, have to make.” –Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“The power of Roy-Bhattacharya's novel is his understanding of all the motivations driving his players. None of their reasons is unreasonable... except as perceived by the other side… Roy-Bhattacharya's brutally honest portrayal of a remote Afghan confrontation explores the complexities of America's longest war.” –Shelf Awareness

“If you want a book that's going to pull you in a dozen different emotional directions, confuse you, intrigue you, then rip your heart into shreds, The Watch is the book for you. It's a brilliant, multi-dimensional examination of the war in Afghanistan told from different points of view. [A] really incredible book. It will truly stay with you for a long time after you put it down, and you won't want to.” —The Boston Bibliophile
“H]ere's a novel that has a little different slant on modern combat--it puts us on the other side of the concertina wire ringing the American compounds in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Watch takes the classic story of Antigone and puts in the tense, frightening setting of sand, heat and hair-trigger nerves.” —David Abrams, author of Fobbit
“Must read fiction.  [A] subtle, discomfiting novel, a nonsequential tale that defies conventional storytelling. It contains first-person descriptions from characters who end up dead—traditionally a no-no in fiction, as it tricks the reader into believing such characters have “lived to tell the tale.” And yet in a novel inspired by the tale of Antigone (who made her name by flouting the so-called rule of law), defying convention seems perfectly apt … The threat of the unexpected is one of this novel’s most charming enticements, along with its beautiful renderings of the harsh Afghan landscape, where ‘mountains look like serrated shadows rising into the air’ …Given the author’s deft arrangement of scenes, readers will dutifully persevere to see what happens, even if the ending is foretold, tragic, and seemingly inevitable.” —The Daily Beast
“[A] rendering as disturbing as Antigone and stands as an original itself … Roy-Bhattacharya leads the reader down a path of discovery and demonstrates how misunderstanding can be perpetuated in what is ultimately a microcosm of the war itself … Dream sequences that meld into reality, and vice versa, create a surreal atmosphere that crosses from the conscious world to the unconscious, mimicking the blurred line between life and death in combat.  The Watch is a tale that illustrates the futility of war at its most basic level.” —BookBrowse, featured review
“What it’s about: Set in modern Afghanistan, this tragic tale about a sister who demands that American soldiers return her brother’s body echoes the Greek tragedy 'Antigone.' -Why it’s hot: 'Publishers Weekly' compared the Indian-born novelist to past masters of the war novel like Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien and Robert Stone.” —USA Today Summer Books Literary Fiction Pick
“Indian novelist Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya adapts the Greek tragedy of Antigone to present-day Afghanistan, telling a harrowing story of a woman who demands the return of her brother’s body and refuses to leave a US military base in Kandahar.” —Christian Science Monitor Best Books of Summer 2012
“[A] poignant tale of the war in Afghanistan. Inevitable repercussions for the soldiers and citizens of the country play out viscerally in a plot that takes its cues from the Antigone myth.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“When a woman approaches a group of soldiers based in Kandahar demanding they procure her brother’s body, they must wonder if her intentions are pure, if she suffers from insanity or if she has ulterior motives. Either way, she remains resolute in her mission, stationing herself alongside the army base causing tensions among the soldiers, unsure of how to handle the situation.  Through this lens, Roy-Bhattacharya uses a familiar story of loss to examine Afghanistan as it exists today.” —The Poughkeepsie Journal

“Every war spawns its major literary works, and Roy-Bhattacharya’s powerful, modern take on the Afghanistan armed conflict resonates with the echoes of Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Stone.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Difficult to put down, powerful, eloquent, and even haunting.” –Booklist, starred review

“Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's lyrical and poignant evocation of war is a potent reminder of the murderous futility of our imperial adventures in the Middle East.  He captures the raw brutality of industrial warfare, along with its trauma, senselessness, random death and stupidity.  His characters, including the soldiers who prosecute the war and the innocents whose lives are maimed and destroyed by it, are consumed alike in the vast orgy of death that sweeps across war zones to extinguish all that is human –tenderness, compassion, understanding and finally love.  He forces us to face the evil we do to others and to ourselves.”
–Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of NBCC finalist War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning

“Masterful novel...The book is particularly strong on men in combat, their bloodlust and their emotional frailty. A powerful reading experience.” –Sydney Morning Herald

“A poignant and important book about one of the defining events of the start of the 21st century; it is devastatingly eloquent and unequivocal about the fact that there is no glory or beauty in war.”
–Fatima Bhutto, author of Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir

“An important book for our times, in which one woman’s determination and refusal to consent sets an example of courage and honesty.”
–Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland and Turbulence

The Watch is a powerful tale, courageous both in concept and creation: an ancient tale made modern, passed through different narrators in extraordinary shape shifting prose that makes this not just an important novel, but a remarkable read.”
–Aminatta Forna, author of Orange Prize shortlisted The Memory of Love

“You will remember her voice, this Afghan Antigone!  You will remember this American First Sergeant, and this American First Lieutenant!  What a masterpiece of the art of fiction--proof, if any were needed, that the Muse is real.  Author Roy-Bhattacharya, neither Afghan nor American, faithfully sees and hears the good in both sides, and blows us off our feet in the shock wave from their explosive collision.”
–Jonathan Shay MD, PhD, author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America

“Merciless and beautiful both, like the Central Asian outpost carved out of sand and war in which it is set, The Watch is a meticulous, gut-...

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hogarth; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307955893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307955890
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #813,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Watch is a novel, but it seemed to be the front page story of my daily newspaper, only with the names of the characters changed.

One remote outpost in Afghanistan is the background, but the events that surround it and the challenges that the young soldiers face, ring true for practically all the garrisons in this war-torn country. The characters are so vividly portrayed that one feels that the author was embedded with the unit portrayed in the book (to my knowledge, he was not). The young girl wishing to give her dead brother (was he really a Taliban?)a proper Muslim burial, the First Lieutenant, the medic, the various enlisted men,are realistically portrayed as are the differences between Muslim culture and that of the West. The description of the Afghan countryside made me feel as if I was viewing a photograph and not the printed word.

This book was almost impossible to put down and I most highly recommend it!
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Format: Hardcover
Courage comes in different forms and consequently the act of bravery can have different interpretations depending on which side you belong to and especially if you do not belong to a side.

Whether you call them 'terrorists' or 'freedom fighters', 'liberators' or 'invaders', 'soldiers' or 'killing machines', the perspective is entirely dependent on the interpreter. And interpretation,as Joydeep Bhattacharya brilliantly espoused in his previous outing,"The Storyteller of Marrakesh",can often distort the truth.

His latest,'The Watch' takes this interpretative ambiguity to a higher echelon in an exciting,page turning and thought provoking book that has one of the most explosive first chapter of any book written and which then launches the reader right into the middle of a war zone where its excitement,intensity,chaos and action are masterfully intertwined by Bhattacharya,the master storyteller.

The story starts with a legless woman-a war victim- presenting herself to an American outpost in Afghanistan, to demand the body of her brother in the army's custody.Is she a grieving sister or a suicide bomber? What happens in the ensuing hours is gripping,realistic,suspenseful and eloquently written. Bhattacharya is careful not to editorialize,politicize or preach. Rather he lets the readers do their own interpretation as do many of the characters in the book.

This book also gives the reader a 'first hand' experience in a war zone and enlightens them regarding why many of these individuals come home traumatized.
"The Watch" is this summer's MUST READ.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book where you can't evade the author's desire to produce Literature (with a capital "L"). Years ago, James Dickey said that bad books start with symbolism and create characters as afterthoughts, and that good books start with characters and situations: put the canoes on the river, he said, and the symbolism will take care of itself. This book started with a series of decisions that led to the kind of clunky maneuvering that made it impossible to get into the story, since the author's hand is everywhere. For example:
--he decided to have the entire story take place while the woman waits for her brother's body-- a couple of days. But how do you develop characterization in such a short period, esp. since soldiers are unlikely to pour out their inner selves to each other? Answer: one drawn-out dream sequence after another, all of which sound an awful lot alike. Everyone dreams of home (ah, this character comes from Penobscot and is the child of a hard-working lobsterman, this one went to Vassar and met his wife there...) It's not a very convincing device, but he's backed himself into it as a way of solving the problem he set up with his timeline. The thing is, you shouldn't be reading a book and thinking, oh, that's a solution to a problem... or thinking, ANOTHER dream sequence???? Don't any of these guys stay awake????
--the book is about IRONY. In case you were going to miss that, it is just ground into you. So, she's replaying the tragedy of Antigone, trying to get her brother back, but he can't resist having one of the characters being a soldier who majored in classics BUT died as a result of her brother's attack. See, he would recognize the tragedy as being Antigone's story, but he's not there to tell them. O, the irony.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First Lines: One. Two. Three. Four. I count the moments and say the Basmala in my head.

The American soldiers in Combat Outpost Tarsándan deep in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan have just been through a fierce all-night battle. Several of them have been killed. The survivors are exhausted, upset and on edge. It is not the best time for Nizam to come to claim the body of her brother, but that is exactly what she's done.

Nizam, the rest of whose family was killed by the bomb-dropping drone that took both her legs, insists on giving her brother a proper burial, but the soldiers can't trust her. She could be a spy, a lunatic, or a suicide bomber. Besides, the chain of command believes her brother to have been a Taliban leader, and his body is to be sent elsewhere to be made an example of. Nizam insists this isn't true and refuses to leave, forcing this beleaguered group of soldiers to make a tough decision. What are they going to do? See this dilemma solely in terms of black and white-- or in shades of grey? Follow orders, or do what's right?

The story begins from Nizam's point of view, and the author immediately puts the reader on her side-- feeling her pain, her exhaustion and her grief. It is a powerful beginning which then shifts to the men inside the outpost. The clock is turned back a couple of days, showing the time leading up to the deadly attack and its aftermath, which explains the soldiers' emotional mindsets.

Chapter by chapter, we're introduced to them and to the Afghan interpreter assigned to the outpost. As the story advances and the reader compares the American point of view to Nizam's, the misunderstandings that lead to the final outcome are clear.
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