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Blog Tour | Review: Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett

Watch Over Me by Claire Corbett
Published May 1st, 2017 by Allen & Unwin
RRP AUD $29.99

Watching goes both ways… They watch for control, for survival, for pleasure. We watch for survival, for fear, for love. A contemporary thriller of rebellion and surrender, love and war.

‘This gem of a novel ticks all the boxes—a book of flaming affections and indefatigable loves, dystopian and convincing, a tale of pilgrimages and adventures, all beautifully textured and lovingly narrated.’ – Tom Keneally, winner of the Booker Prize

The pressure of my blood, the beat of my heart, is a message to you. You read each second of my body’s life. But watching goes both ways. You watch us: for control, for power, for pleasure. We watch you: for survival, for fear, for love.

It is the present day. The foggy northern city of Port Angelsund, gateway to the last great fossil fuel reserves beneath the Arctic Ocean, is under occupation by the soldiers of Garrison. Sylvie is a young woman just trying to survive. She works in a harbourside café with her mother and little brother, and fears for her older brother, Jory, who fled when the enemy invaded.

When Sylvie is singled out for punishment at a Garrison checkpoint, a young lieutenant rescues her from torture. Though she knows the terrible risks of collaboration, she cannot stop herself from falling in love. Watched closely by Garrison’s vast machinery of surveillance, Sylvie now discovers she is also under the protective and suspicious gaze of her lover.

Brooding over the rim of the world, Coalition pledges to free Port Angelsund: storm is coming, they say, we are on our way. When Jory returns on a terrorist mission that will throw the city into chaos, Sylvie’s loyalties are tested beyond breaking point. Her deep bond with her brother and her illicit passion for her Garrison officer are loves that cannot coexist. Whatever she does is betrayal.

In the spirit of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Suite Francaise, this sensual and heart-breaking novel brings the classic conflicts of war and occupation, devotion and treachery, up to the present minute. While the unimaginable power of modern warfare advances, Watch Over Me reminds us that the things at stake—survival, refuge and love—remain the things worth fighting for.


Starting off, I was intrigued, I don’t usually pick up books of this sort – some parts war, some parts romance, all set in a contemporary world. It took a while for me to get into the feel of the book, since for some reason my mind thought the book was set in the ‘50’s, and I would get tripped up whenever something relatively modern was mentioned, but once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it. Until the romance set in.

I liked how the book was written, I was drawn in and was always interested to see what was going to happen next. I really felt the emotion throughout the book, the author is brilliant at writing emotions. It felt like a book I wouldn’t read and then just forget about (ahem, Perks of Being a Wallflower), but as I progressed through the book, it deviated further away from the interesting start.

I got a little confused with all the characters up until around page 140, because of the different groups, but once I got the hang of how things worked, it was alright. There were female characters, but I didn’t really find them to be strong, so that really disappointed me, especially since this is set in modern times. I would have expected at least one from all of the characters in the story. I liked Sylvie initially, and I thought she had potential to be a strong character, but her character changed so much when the romance started and during.

I wasn’t a fan of the romance between Sylvie and the lieutenant. Initially it sort of seemed like the author was trying to romanticise possessiveness, over-protectiveness and having the female be a simple ‘trophy’, I’m aware that people tend to be more protective when it comes to war or possible danger, but I feel like that was a little over the top. Further on into the story, it got progressively worse, with both parties having constant mood swings and Sylvie giving off a damsel-in-distress vibe, and feeling like she was nothing without him and he was the only thing to make her happy.

To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this, not when there are so many other stories with stronger characters and healthier relationships.


I received a review copy from the publisher.




Claire Corbett was born in Canada and has worked in film and government policy. Her first novel, When We Have Wings, was published in 2011 and shortlisted for the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award and the 2012 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. Her recent fiction and essays have been published in a range of journals, including The Best Australian Stories 2014/2015, Griffith Review, Southerly and Overland. She has written on defence and strategy for The Diplomat, The Strategist and The Monthly.

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