Book Club: Watch Over Me

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Author: Claire Corbett
ISBN: 978-1-74331-075-5
RRP: $29.99

Watch Over Me is a novel that is disturbing, intriguing and engrossing all at once. It’s set in a time that could well be right now, or a few years in the future. The technology is recognisable if a little more advanced, there is nothing scarily futuristic.

Port Angelsund is a northern city bordering the Arctic sea, it is occupied by Garrison soldiers and controlled by the Guardian. Occupation is not fun for anyone but it isn’t just the Garrison soldiers the citizens need to worry about. The Coalition want to see the end of the occupation and then there’s the Ultra, they want to inspire the citizens to rise up and fight back.

Sylvie Falk is a young woman trying to stay under the radar and survive the occupation. She lives with her mum and younger brother in a storage space behind the cafe they work in. They had a flat in Old Town, before it was bombed.

Watch Over Me is quite an insightful look at war and occupation through the eyes of the common women who are just trying to get by. She has no involvement in the war, except in that she lives in the city and is trying to survive.

Movement through the city requires ID and checkpoints with the eyes of the Garrison always on them. Checkpoints are often used for torture and punishment, largely for the purpose of instilling fear. Sylvie is singled out at a checkpoint one day and when she is rescued by a Garrison lieutenant she begins to think of him constantly, and fall for him without ever seeing his face.

The writing style of this one was interesting, it was written in the first person by Sylvie but it was written conversationally. It was like she was talking to her Garrison lieutenant, or writing to him, but I couldn’t place the how or the when. It was almost like she was talking from a point in the future as she looked back on her life but I couldn’t work out how or when. That element held a lot of suspense for me as I waited to put those pieces of the puzzle together.

Love in a time of war can be an interesting and intense experience for anyone but what if you fall in love with someone from the other side, that takes the affair to a whole new level. It creates suspicion, disgust, contempt and a new level of segregation – from both sides. Corbett explores this indepth to weave a story I found thought-provoking and insightful. It’s a side of war that I had never given much thought to.

Maybe you can call me an ostrich but I try to stay away from the news and current affairs because so much of what is going on in the world just breaks my heart and I can’t understand how these things come to be – so rather than trying to learn about it, I try to avoid knowing about it. Watch Over Me looks at the way each faction thinks they are doing the best thing for the citizens of the Port city and in the end they are all making things worse because their reactions and retaliations escalate issues.

Watch Over Me was thought-provoking and, I think, timely. Life in an occupied city would be uncertain and scary, especially if the occupying forces need to keep changing things so that there is no new normal to get accustomed to. It’s not something I can even imagine being so far from anything similar but it certainly made me think because the times we are living in don’t always seem as certain as they used to, war doesn’t seem as distant as it used to and I’m not sure if that’s a sign of the times or just me becoming more aware of the wider world and looking further afield than my direct surroundings.

There is no shortage of books written about occupied cities, many of them accounts of what people actually faced. What I loved about Watch Over Me is that it utilises modern technology; phones and internet, drones and an eye in the sky all focused on watching their every move and being able to track what’s happening at all times in a way that they weren’t able to do in the world wars.

Watch Over Me is a tale of war and a tale of love; a tale of conquerers and a tale of surrender; the spoils of war and those things freely given. This is a book that I will be thinking on for days to come.

Watch Over Me is published by Allen & Unwin, you can purchase your copy at iBooks, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Amazon and where all good books are sold.

You can find Claire Corbett on social media here: Twitter, Facebook and

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Watch Over Me so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what they think.

9 thoughts on “Book Club: Watch Over Me

  1. There is an ethereal, dream like feel to Watch Over Me, by Claire Corbett, and that uncertainty, that feeling of not quite knowing what is real or what will happen next, sets exactly the right atmospheric landscape for this stark and eerie dystopian tale.

    The book explores the plight of a vanquished community ( and more particularly the women within it) – those living in occupied territory during a war. The citizens of Port Angelsund are completely under the control of their conquerors from the Garrison. ID papers, compulsory checkpoints, curfews, rationing and restricted activities are part of their day to day. Every citizen’s movement is tracked via ever present drones, their mobile phones, and even their thoughts are manipulated by being brainwashed through compulsory gaming! Probably the most confronting and revealing sentence in the whole book is: “…our bodies, our homes, our streets and squares were not ours, no space no matter how intimate, was under our control…”

    It is against this backdrop that the narrator and main character of the book, Sylvie tells her story – a survival story but also a strangled love story, where Sylvie’s loyalties to family, friends and her lover are tested.

    Watch Over Me is an interesting book but it’s certainly not one for the squeamish – the things people and particularly women and children endure, is the stuff of nightmares!

  2. Claire Corbett’s novel “Watch Over Me” is a dark and disturbing look at a young woman’s life in a town ravaged by fear, hatred and war.

    The book is an engaging one that immediately hooks you in because it is told from the first-person perspective of Sylvie, a strong girl who works in her mother’s café. Over time she is subjected to humiliation and other unspeakable acts but in spite of this she falls for a member of the enemy, a Garrison soldier. Corbett constructs quite a layered and complex novel where the different players and parties seem well-meaning but as tensions flare and rise nothing seems certain and it almost feels like a case of the darkness reigning supreme.

    This story is one that should appeal to fans of John Marsden’s “Tomorrow When The War Began” and George Orwell’s “1984” because there are many lessons to be learned in this tale and other stories documenting times of love and war.

  3. Prolific Australian author Tom Keneally’s cover endorsement of Watch Over Me, which is writer Claire Corbett’s second novel, was enough to convince me I really wanted to read this book. Watch Over Me was definitely a book that falls outside my usual genre preferences. This novel presents the reader with an original and perceptive take on a contemporary world ravaged by war, conflict and suppression. It combines these age old themes with a consuming romance between the two lead characters.

    Sylvie is a nineteen year old pastry chef, who works at her family’s cafe. She resides in a place called Port Angelsund, which we learn a few years prior came under occupation from an army from called Garrison, due to its lucrative natural energy reserves. Now Sylvie, her family and the other citizens of Port Angelsund find themselves placed under constant surveillance through checkpoints, rationing, and drones. When Sylvie gains some unwanted attention at a routine checkpoint, a young and ambitious lieutenant named Will comes to Sylvie’s aid. Saving her from probable torture, Sylvie quickly falls in love with Will. They soon embark on a tumultuous love affair that spirals out of control. Day by day, Will becomes more passionate, possessive and protective of Sylvie. Sylvie’s loyalties are then pushed to their very limits, when her older brother returns home from a mission to help overthrow the Garrison. Sylvie comes to the heartbreaking conclusion that she cannot love both men in the world they are currently living in.

    What an interesting, as well as quite disturbing scenario author Claire Corbett presents her audience with in her second novel, Watch Over Me. Current, as well as past world events, in particular war, seem to have a strong place in this novel. It is clear the author has conducted a great deal of search in the area of warfare, with a specific focus on war psychology. Corbett uses this to her advantage to inform the multi layered, as well as atmospheric narrative of Watch Over Me.

    This book had an almost dystopian and futuristic feel setting wise, but I was surprised to learn in the opening that it is set in the present day. The situation in which the main character Sylvie is placed in is very plausible. I could easily see how our world could quickly change into the one Sylvie inhabits. Strong military presence, curfews, rations, drones and movement restrictions are an all too scary reality, making Corbett’s novel a topical one.

    Sylvie, the main character of Watch Over Me, comes across as a strong voice. This may be due to the fact that the whole book is narrated solely from Sylvie’s point of view. We get a deep impression of what life is like for Sylvie and the citizens of Angelsund from her singular voice. There are many other characters who come in and out of this novel, giving the reader a picture of life in Angelsund. I did find this area of the book hard to get a handle on. Will, Sylvie’s love interest and the other main player in this book, was a compelling character. The relationship between Sylvie and Will is best described as complicated and sexually charged. At times, this part of the book dominated the narrative and I wasn’t entirely invested in this relationship for reasons I just can’t seem to put my finger on. However, Corbett does do a good job of conveying the emotions associated with Sylvie’s agonising decision as to whether she should draw alliances with her older brother, or lover Will. The journey we are taken on as a reader is a difficult one, fraught with tension and unexpected moments, but the ending will leave you with a glimmer of hope.

    Watch Over Me would best be defined as a very modern, almost futuristic take on love, life and survival in a time of conflict. There is no doubt Watch Over Me is an ambitious novel, with strong intentions. Watch Over Me didn’t quite meet the expectations I formed going into the novel, but I can see how it would have the power to enthral a wide readership.

    *I wish to thank Beauty and Lace/Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes.

  4. Thankyou Beauty and Lace for selecting me for this book, Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett.

    The book is narrated by the central character, Sylvie. She is 19 years old. She lives in Port Angelsund, a city occupied by Garrison soldiers. The Coalition are fighting to free the city from occupation. The Ultra ( resistance movement ) want the citizens to fight back and cause mayhem.
    Sylvie tells the story of hers and the women and children’s struggle for survival in this chaotic time.
    The people are monitored and controlled by their phones, drones and all technology.

    Sylvie falls in love with a Garrison Black Mamba Lieutenant, they have a torrid love affair. Which is complicated because Sylvie’s brother is in the Resistance movement. Her allegiance and love for both is in conflict..

    What I especially like about the book is the final chapter, it gives the reader closure.

    There are many layers to this story ,it is not just a love story but of , past and present wars and occupations. How people’s lives are controlled and oppressed.

    It is a thought provoking modern thriller.
    It is not the usual story I would choose, but I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

    It makes you think , who is watching!!

  5. ‘Watch Over Me’
    It consumed every spare minute I had!
    I have to admit I found the first couple chapters hard to understand. I wasn’t sure who was who and what was what.
    But I continued and I couldn’t put the book down. The story was unfolding in my dreams when I tried to sleep.

    The story is a bit of a mixture of 50 shades of grey and a bit of Hitler going on.
    The novel never gets dull, always a suspense always something happening, explosions of love making to thrilling torture.

    Thanks to beauty and Lace and Allen and unwin for the chance to read and review this novel.

  6. Thank you for selecting me to read Watch Over Me
    Sylvie is a young woman living with her mother and brother ( she does have another brother ) living in Port Angelsund which is controlled by the garrisons
    The city is completely controlled by the army and drones even the mobile phones are monitored
    Sylvie falls in love with a garrison soldier and her loyalties are put to the test
    This story is about the problems and situations that women have during war as well as the children
    Parts of this book were extremely hard for me as the reader to read
    I will admit this not a book I would normally read but I read to the end and quite enjoyed

  7. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read and review Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett.

    I am a voracious reader of many different genres and it is a rare book that I am unable to complete. Sadly Watch Over Me joined that small group. I tried on 3 separate occasions to read the book, even reading other books in my favourite genres in between, but found myself unable to read further than the end of Chapter 8.

    I have thought long and hard about what it was about the book that left me unable to complete it but find it hard to pinpoint what it was. All I know is that I got to the end of Chapter 8 and thought “what have I just read?”

    Perhaps in our current world environment with all the terrible things that are going on in so many countries my mind just decided it couldn’t deal with a book that could so easily represent our future.

  8. I loved Watch Over Me! It was so intriguing, frightening and all around marvellous. It rolled into an epic story and I fell in love with the ending.
    The idea of forbidden love is always a great story line and it brings a whole new meaning to it by placing it within the confines of a occupied and harsh existence. The main characters are real and enticing and I love that the glimpses and information is fed to the reader slowly.
    I really struggled to get through the first couple of chapters as the information would lodge in my brain. I found that I had to just go with it and eventually I knew it would stick. I become spellbound by the ability for the main characters family to live in such a harsh and cruel way after everything they had was destroyed while continuing to work the Half Moon café and try and keep some normalcy during such a difficult time.
    I loved the way in which she became a part of Wills existence and he became a drug to hers. It became such a toxic existence and when the light began to fade on their days and winter descended so too did a sense of dread descend on the story line and I was prepared for harshness to prevail.
    I was not at all prepared for the direction that the ending went but I must admit that I loved the ways the characters grew into what became a stellar ending. I also loved that things became whole again and wrong doings were reconciled in the brightest of lights.
    After I submit this I am off to dig up what other treasures lie out there from Claire. Bliss!

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