‘The voice which Corbett has selected—first-person narration by Sylvie, who so frequently refers to ‘her’ lieutenant in the second person that the tale is in effect a paean to a deeply troubling, deeply-felt relationship—adds significantly to the narrative’s innate tension….The book’s depiction of occupation is deep and multifaceted: the fierce arguments between Port’s subjugated citizens over the options of resistance, submission, or collaboration … the senseless yet carefully-calibrated atrocities inflicted seemingly at random, … the ‘war banter’ between Maur and his fellow officers, full of opaque metaphors, occupational in-jokes, and shorthand references to past sorties; the day-to-day focus of those who can’t know, when they arise in the morning, if they will still be more-or-less safe that evening. There’s a strong sense of invasion as marketing, of harassment as advertising: Garrison’s boy soldiers humiliate, assault, kill those who cannot fight back, in part because they can, in part because it’s what’s expected of them. Anything less would indicate a failure, on their part, to meet military KPIs. This focus obviously makes for strange bedfellows with the book’s other primary concern of love and abandonment; and yet it’s this juxtaposition, more than anything else, which makes the story work.’
I ‘descend’ into titillation. Descend, I tell you! So revealing, isn’t it, the type of language used about women writing about sex. I mentioned this in my review of the TV series of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, where a morally serious and complex portrayal of domestic violence was dismissed by male critics as straying into ’50 Shades of Grey’ territory. This seems to be becoming part of the critical arsenal, the lazy way to trivialise women writing about the ambiguous and complex nexus of sex and power. Shades of grey indeed!
‘While some of the action of Watch Over Me has a 1984-feel, it is only speculative in the broadest sense. Corbett draws on her extensive knowledge of military matters so that the technology used is all contemporary. The occupation itself is based not only on any number of recent conflicts but Corbett also draws heavily on connections to Greek mythology.
Watch Over Me is overall an engaging and effective story based on truths that are unfortunately far from new about communities under occupation and the role and status of women during war time.’
This review first appeared in Aurealis #102, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine
An intriguing and compelling story with a distinct dystopian feel despite having a modern day setting. This concept alone challenges your thoughts about the happenings and complexities of the character’s world, the characters themselves, and the psychology involved in war in a very tactile way which for me was possibly the most enjoyable aspect of the novel.
The love story is a strong theme throughout, and Corbett presents this in a highly passionate and endearing manner which indeed is not without conflict nor heartbreak as you’d expect within the confines of this particular story.
Overall, Watch Over Me, is a captivating and gripping read that will challenge and delight readers. This is a story that will stay with me for quite some time. Exceptional theme, meticulous research, and brilliant writing from Claire Corbett.
‘Sydney-based Corbett has written about defence and strategy for several publications, and Watch Over Me is deeply informed by her research into historical invasions from Sarajevo to Troy.
She is fascinated by the subjugation of a country and especially its women, who are usually seen as treasonous if they have an affair with an occupying officer — while the men are merely doing what’s natural.
“Nothing else about me will ever matter,” muses Sylvie. “I may even die for it: to the world I will always be that girl.”’
This is a powerful portrayal of what can happen in war and in the skilful hands of Claire Corbett the message is clear: there but for the grace of God …
The world is at war. It always has been. Our sense of security is an illusion. At any moment, on any day, in any year, somebody somewhere is suffering at the hands of someone else. This is the fundamental truth at the heart of Watch Over Me.
A lovely review at the Dodging Commas site: ‘This is a stunning novel – beautifully written and gorgeous with its imagery, the novel is more than just words on a page.’
Simon Petrie’s review of When We Have Wings for his XX Hard SF project, reviewing hard SF by women writers. ‘The writing is resonant and elegant, and lies towards the literary end of the SF spectrum, in the company of authors such as Ursula K Le Guin and M John Harrison. But one of the things that sets the book apart from other lit/SF novels is its hard SF worldbuilding…’
A five star review of the Dutch edition by Edward Janssens in CultuurBewust, a Dutch cultural web-magazine.
‘This is a detail-rich story, and Hosking’s clear, lilting voice, with its slight Australian accent, is a true pleasure.’ – Audiofile