Author(s): Elizabeth Harrower
"After Laura and Clare are abandoned by their mother, Felix is there to help, even to marry Laura if she will have him. Little by little the two sisters grow complicit with his obsessions, his cruelty, his need to control. Set in the leafy northern suburbs of Sydney during the 1940s, The Watch Tower is a novel of relentless and acute psychological power."
'To create a monster as continually credible, comic and nauseating as Felix is a feat of a very high order. But to control that creation, as Miss Harrower does, so that Clare remains the centre of interest is an achievement even more rare. The Watch Tower is a triumph of art over virtuosity... a dense, profoundly moral novel of our time.' -- H.G. Kippax Sydney Morning Herald, 19 November 1966 'Elizabeth Harrower's thrilling 1966 novel The Watch Tower comes rampaging back from decades of disgraceful neglect: a wartime Sydney story of two abandoned sisters and the arrival in their lives of Felix, one of literature's most ferociously realised nasty pieces of work.' -- Helen Garner The Australian Books of the Year 'I read this book twice. Once for sheer pleasure - if pleasure can be the correct term for an experience that is so distressing - and once for the purposes of this review...It left me with the strongest sense I have had for a very long time of the infinite preciousness of consciousness, at whatever cost, and of our terrifying human vulnerability.' -- Salley Vickers Sydney Morning Herald 'I couldn't put down The Watch Tower, Elizabeth Harrower's dark fairytale of psychological cruelty and co-dependence set in suburban Sydney. Although published originally in 1966 (and reprinted this year by Text Classics), it still has the power to shock. Harrower's insight into the nuances of a pathological personality is forensic, and surely one of the most acute in our literature since Henry Handel Richardson's The Fortunes of Richard Mahony. At the same time, because of its complicated tone, her book retains a kind of mythic power.' -- Delia Falconer The Australian Books of the Year 'A superb psychological novel that will creep into your bones.' -- Michelle de Kretser The Monthly 'I read The Watch Tower with a mixture of fascination and horror. It was impossible to put down. I then read all Harrower's novels: The Long Prospect (a prescient study of a relationship between a man and a clever but unrecognised young girl), Down in the City and The Catherine Wheel. Her acute psychological assessments are made from gestures, language and glances and she is brilliant on power, isolation and class.' -- Ramona Koval The Australian Books of the Year 'Elizabeth Harrower's The Watch Tower truly feels like a neglected classic...I think it's one of the most moving books I've read in a very long time.' -- Mariella Frostrup 'Haunting...Harrower captures brilliantly the struggle to retain a self.' Guardian UK 'Harrower's greatest novel [is] The Watch Tower (1966), the bitter story of two sisters, Laura and Clare, who lose their parents and fall under the sway of Felix Shaw, an abusive and controlling drunk...[It is] her masterpiece.' -- James Wood New Yorker 'This is a harrowing novel, relentless in its depiction of marital enslavement, spiritual self-destruction and the exploited condition of women in a masculinist society...It is a brilliant achievement.' Washington Post 'Haunting and delicate.' Kirkus Reviews 'What a discovery! Harrower's voice in this book is disconcerting at first: almost fatigued, as though she knows that everything to come is fated to be so and there's little to do but tell the story. And her characters-two young sisters-likewise passively accept the events that befall them. This fatalism is absorbing, though, as you watch the women move slowly through a comatose state into a kind of awakening. In fact, the story reminded me at times of A Doll's House-namely, in the younger sister's internal striving for selfhood and independence-but the long tale of the sisters' subjugation is far more excruciating than what Ibsen imagined. Paris Review Daily '[A] fantastically incisive portrait of domestic cruelty...For all the psychological torment Harrower subjects her protagonists to, Clare's defiance brings a delectably feminist streak to The Watch Tower.' Daily Beast 'The Watch Tower is an enthralling, captivating story about psychological entrapment and the struggle to escape it.' Shelf Awareness 'Harrower crafts a gripping, psychologically astute tale...A classic, indeed.' Shelf Unbound 'Beautifully written and a powerful commentary on the subjugation of women in the 1940's both in the work place and in the home, Harrower has created a complex array of characters. The psychological tight rope that Laura and Clare must walk on a daily basis is deeply felt by the reader. The book is surely a mini-masterpiece.' Salty Popcorn
"Elizabeth Harrower was born in Sydney in 1928. She lived in Newcastle until her family moved back to Sydney when she was eleven. In 1951 Harrower travelled to London and began to write. Her first novel, Down in the City, was published there in 1957 and was followed by The Long Prospect a year later. In 1959 she returned to Sydney, where she worked in radio and then in publishing. Her third novel, The Catherine Wheel, appeared in 1960. Harrower published The Watch Tower, the novel often called her masterpiece, in 1966. Four years later she finished In Certain Circles, but withdrew it from publication at the last moment. The novel was finally published in 2014, to great acclaim. As well as novels Harrower wrote short stories, most of which are collected in A Few Days in the Country (2015). She is one of the most important postwar Australian writers. She was admired by many of her contemporaries, including Patrick White and Christina Stead, who both became lifelong friends. Her fiction is now reaching a new generation of readers and writers. Elizabeth Harrower lives in Sydney."