Day 605: The Watch Tower

Cover for The Watch TowerBest Book of the Week!
The Watch Tower opens when Laura and Clare Vaizey are abruptly pulled out of school after their father dies. They move with their mother Stella to an apartment in the Sydney suburbs. While Stella lounges around in bed, she has the girls do all the housework. Laura, who thought she might become a doctor or an opera singer, is made to leave school and take a secretarial course. Later, to keep Clare in a decent school, Laura has to turn over all her earnings from a secretarial job in a factory, for her mother would as soon see Clare in the local high school, which only teaches girls home economics.

When World War II breaks out, Stella decides to return to England, leaving her girls to fend for themselves. By then, Laura is in her early 20’s and Clare in high school. When Laura wonders what she can do to keep Clare in high school, her mother suggests she get her a job in the factory.

Laura confides her problems to her boss, Felix Shaw, whom she thinks of as a good man. Felix has an idea that will keep Clare out of the factory. Laura should marry him, and he will support both girls. Stella refuses to give her advice, but she obviously prefers any solution that will be less trouble for herself. Seeing Felix’s offer as a sort of business deal, Laura accepts.

Laura and Clare do not know it, but they have put themselves into the hands of an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive man. The resulting story is one of great psychological depth. While Laura becomes a woman who will do anything to keep peace in the house, Clare finds herself attempting to stay in some way true to herself.

The novel is an absorbing account of the need of one person for escape from an abusive and emotionally stifling situation while another attempts to close every avenue of escape. Felix is continually involved in shady business deals with proteges who disappear as soon as they’ve managed to cheat him. Felix then takes everything out on his wife, showing her contempt so that others treat her contemptuously, too. Laura will do anything to appease him, including preventing her sister from attempting to leave.

This story is a dark and compelling one.

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