The Watch

( 4 )


   Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to move from her spot on the field in full view of every soldier in the stark outpost. Her presence quickly proves dangerous as the camp’s tense, claustrophobic

... See more details below
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (30) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $2.41   
  • Used (27) from $1.99   
The Watch

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99 price


   Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to move from her spot on the field in full view of every soldier in the stark outpost. Her presence quickly proves dangerous as the camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil when the men begin arguing about what to do next.
   Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s heartbreaking and haunting novel, The Watch, takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan. Taking its cues from the Antigone myth, Roy-Bhattacharya brilliantly recreates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of battle, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers, their families, and by one sister. The result is a gripping tour through the reality of this very contemporary conflict, and our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of war.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When a vicious firefight erupts after the Taliban attack a mountainous, remote American military garrison, Combat Outpost Tarsândan in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, the American forces suffer heavy losses, including their popular Lt. Nick Frobenius. Then Nizam, a legless Pashtun girl, scuttles up on the “bleak wasteland” battlefield with a request to bury her slain Pashtun brother according to the tenets of their faith. The straitlaced leader, Capt. Evan Connolly, rejects her claim that her brother wasn’t a Taliban commander and orders the obstinate, proud girl to leave. Her refusal triggers a bizarre, poignant two-day standoff between the girl and the U.S. military, during which the Americans begin to doubt their purpose in Afghanistan. The officers and GIs, seeing the folly of their mission, lobby Connolly to give the body, which the U.S. military plans to use for anti-Taliban propaganda purposes, to Nizam for a proper interment. Seamless time shifts illuminate the well-drawn stories of many soldiers, the most thorough of which is assembled from the journals kept by Lieutenant Frobenius, a classics scholar. Every war spawns its major literary works, and Roy-Bhattacharya’s (The Storyteller of Marrakesh) powerful, modern take on the Afghanistan armed conflict resonates with the echoes of Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Stone. Agent: Nicole Aragi, the Aragi Agency. (June)
Library Journal
In this modern retelling of the story of Antigone, fighting around a beleaguered American base in Kandahar has left many dead, and a woman comes to demand that she be given the body of her brother to bury according to local Afghan rites. Written in direct, colloquial language, this novel is among the inaugural titles from Hogarth Press—named, of course, for the enterprise run by Virginia and Leonard Woolf and launched jointly by Crown and Chatto & Windus in London.
Library Journal
The American forces at Combat Outpost Tarsandan, Afghanistan, are recovering from a bloody battle in Kandahar Province when they notice a veiled figure in the distance, moving inexorably toward the base. This is a Pashtun woman named Nizam, who's on a mission to collect her brother Yusuf's body for a proper burial. Her request sets off a chain of events, as we move from her perspective to that of the base medic, then a young interpreter, and finally the various American soldiers who witness her Sophoclean plight and record their observations in journal entries. Indian-born novelist Roy-Bhattacharya (The Storyteller of Marrakesh) has a sensitive ear for dialog as he deftly juggles this diverse cast. VERDICT The horror and futility of war—on both the battlefield and the home front—weave their way through this timely achievement. Recommended for fans of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and particularly for readers interested in international settings or military issues.—Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll.-Northeast, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Pressing parallels to Greek drama, this Indian author's ambitious but poorly structured third novel is about an Afghanistan War episode. The setting is a U.S. combat outpost in Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold. The guys are spooked. An ambush in the surrounding mountains has claimed two of them. That was followed by an insurgent attack during a blinding sandstorm, leaving four Americans dead and four wounded. The Afghan National Army soldiers abandoned their positions. The next day, a strange apparition approaches the base perimeter. It's covered in a burqa and is pushing a cart. Man or woman? Suicide bomber or decoy? There's no suspense for the reader, for the apparition, a young woman called Nizam, has already introduced herself in the opening section. Her family, returning from a wedding party, was killed by a U.S. bomb, leaving herself and her brother Yusuf, who led the revenge attack on the base. Yusuf was not a Talib but an anti-American freedom fighter. The wounded Nizam, her legs reduced to stumps, has come to bury him. The American captain, awaiting orders from battalion headquarters, refuses to release the body. So there's a standoff. But when the soldiers hear Nizam playing her lute, they are spellbound: She has won their hearts and minds but not the captain's, and her mission will end tragically. There's material here for a novella but not more. The author inflates it in various ways, including stateside flashbacks. Long quotations from Sophocles' Antigone, in which a burial is key, bookend his story. One lieutenant, Frobenius, is a classicist who has enlisted for old-fashioned reasons of honor, and his journal is laced with classical allusions. He sees the Pashtuns, with their concepts of honor and shame, as descendants of the Greeks. There is much desultory chatter among the grunts, ethnically diverse in the old war-story tradition, but little action, apart from that early firefight. Nizam's mission exposes the contradictions in the American presence in Afghanistan; the Greek connection is hardly necessary.
From the Publisher
“The best novel about post-invasion Afghanistan that I’ve come across.”
—Fatima Bhutto, author of Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir

“We watch as the resistance of an isolated American garrison in Afghanistan is ground down, not by force of arms but by the will of a single unarmed woman, holding inflexibly to an idea of what is just and right.”
J.M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize and a two-time Man Booker Prize winner

“Roy-Bhattacharya re-animates the timeless themes of Antigone…This brave, visceral novel breaks new ground and does what previous versions of Antigone never have: It makes each character deeply humane, challenging the reader to sympathize with every one of them.”

“[The novel] achieves a subtle balance of dramatic forces—personal morality and public order, duty to God and duty to country—that gives it a philosophical depth and wrenching humanity…Mr. Roy-Bhattacharya brings a rigorous and often disquieting sense of empathy to each of his clashing characters. There is no outright villain here, only the collision of people stubbornly holding to what they believe to be right and honorable. This is the essence of tragedy, and it makes The Watch the first great novel of the war in Afghanistan.”
Wall Street Journal

“An engaging work of timeless imagination, both vivid and gritty.”
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

The Watch is an important war novel.”
Dallas News
“Antigone, the mythological heroine of Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old drama, pleads with King Creon to allow her to bury her brother, who died in battle. It must be done or the gods will be unhappy. A beautiful re-enactment of this tragedy plays out in the dust of a forlorn outpost in Afghanistan when a young woman parks herself outside a fort and pleads with American soldiers stationed there to give her the body of her brother slain in the conflict…So worthwhile to read this lyrical drama about the horror of war to find out.”
New Jersey Star Ledger, Kathleen Daley
“A heartbreaking and haunting look at the nature and reality of war.”
Wichita Eagle, Watermark Books New & Recommended
“The fog of war doesn't begin to describe what awaits the American soldiers in Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's novel The Watch … Roy-Bhattacharya consulted with front-line officers to get his details right. His description of the firefight in a sandstorm is gripping and terrifying; so are his overlapping accounts of the ethical and military decisions that young men, fatigued, distraught and unsupported, have to make.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“The power of Roy-Bhattacharya's novel is his understanding of all the motivations driving his players. None of their reasons is unreasonable... except as perceived by the other side… Roy-Bhattacharya's brutally honest portrayal of a remote Afghan confrontation explores the complexities of America's longest war.”
Shelf Awareness

“If you want a book that's going to pull you in a dozen different emotional directions, confuse you, intrigue you, then rip your heart into shreds, The Watch is the book for you. It's a brilliant, multi-dimensional examination of the war in Afghanistan told from different points of view. [A] really incredible book. It will truly stay with you for a long time after you put it down, and you won't want to.”
The Boston Bibliophile
“H]ere's a novel that has a little different slant on modern combat--it puts us on the other side of the concertina wire ringing the American compounds in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Watch takes the classic story of Antigone and puts in the tense, frightening setting of sand, heat and hair-trigger nerves.”
—David Abrams, author of Fobbit
“Must read fiction.  [A] subtle, discomfiting novel, a nonsequential tale that defies conventional storytelling. It contains first-person descriptions from characters who end up dead—traditionally a no-no in fiction, as it tricks the reader into believing such characters have “lived to tell the tale.” And yet in a novel inspired by the tale of Antigone (who made her name by flouting the so-called rule of law), defying convention seems perfectly apt … The threat of the unexpected is one of this novel’s most charming enticements, along with its beautiful renderings of the harsh Afghan landscape, where ‘mountains look like serrated shadows rising into the air’ …Given the author’s deft arrangement of scenes, readers will dutifully persevere to see what happens, even if the ending is foretold, tragic, and seemingly inevitable.” The Daily Beast
“[A] rendering as disturbing as Antigone and stands as an original itself … Roy-Bhattacharya leads the reader down a path of discovery and demonstrates how misunderstanding can be perpetuated in what is ultimately a microcosm of the war itself … Dream sequences that meld into reality, and vice versa, create a surreal atmosphere that crosses from the conscious world to the unconscious, mimicking the blurred line between life and death in combat.  The Watch is a tale that illustrates the futility of war at its most basic level.”
BookBrowse, featured review
“What it’s about: Set in modern Afghanistan, this tragic tale about a sister who demands that American soldiers return her brother’s body echoes the Greek tragedy 'Antigone.' -Why it’s hot: 'Publishers Weekly' compared the Indian-born novelist to past masters of the war novel like Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien and Robert Stone.”
USA Today Summer Books Literary Fiction Pick
“Indian novelist Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya adapts the Greek tragedy of Antigone to present-day Afghanistan, telling a harrowing story of a woman who demands the return of her brother’s body and refuses to leave a US military base in Kandahar.”
Christian Science Monitor Best Books of Summer 2012
“[A] poignant tale of the war in Afghanistan. Inevitable repercussions for the soldiers and citizens of the country play out viscerally in a plot that takes its cues from the Antigone myth.”
The Columbus Dispatch
“When a woman approaches a group of soldiers based in Kandahar demanding they procure her brother’s body, they must wonder if her intentions are pure, if she suffers from insanity or if she has ulterior motives. Either way, she remains resolute in her mission, stationing herself alongside the army base causing tensions among the soldiers, unsure of how to handle the situation.  Through this lens, Roy-Bhattacharya uses a familiar story of loss to examine Afghanistan as it exists today.”
The Poughkeepsie Journal

“Every war spawns its major literary works, and Roy-Bhattacharya’s powerful, modern take on the Afghanistan armed conflict resonates with the echoes of Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Stone.” 
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Difficult to put down, powerful, eloquent, and even haunting.”
Booklist, starred review

“Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's lyrical and poignant evocation of war is a potent reminder of the murderous futility of our imperial adventures in the Middle East.  He captures the raw brutality of industrial warfare, along with its trauma, senselessness, random death and stupidity.  His characters, including the soldiers who prosecute the war and the innocents whose lives are maimed and destroyed by it, are consumed alike in the vast orgy of death that sweeps across war zones to extinguish all that is human –tenderness, compassion, understanding and finally love.  He forces us to face the evil we do to others and to ourselves.”
—Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of NBCC finalist War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning

“Masterful novel...The book is particularly strong on men in combat, their bloodlust and their emotional frailty. A powerful reading experience.”
Sydney Morning Herald

“A poignant and important book about one of the defining events of the start of the 21st century; it is devastatingly eloquent and unequivocal about the fact that there is no glory or beauty in war.”
—Fatima Bhutto, author of Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir

“An important book for our times, in which one woman’s determination and refusal to consent sets an example of courage and honesty.”
—Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland and Turbulence

The Watch is a powerful tale, courageous both in concept and creation: an ancient tale made modern, passed through different narrators in extraordinary shape shifting prose that makes this not just an important novel, but a remarkable read.”
—Aminatta Forna, author of Orange Prize shortlisted The Memory of Love

“You will remember her voice, this Afghan Antigone!  You will remember this American First Sergeant, and this American First Lieutenant!  What a masterpiece of the art of fiction--proof, if any were needed, that the Muse is real.  Author Roy-Bhattacharya, neither Afghan nor American, faithfully sees and hears the good in both sides, and blows us off our feet in the shock wave from their explosive collision.”
—Jonathan Shay MD, PhD, author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America

“Merciless and beautiful both, like the Central Asian outpost carved out of sand and war in which it is set, The Watch is a meticulous, gut-wrenching analysis of how we perpetuate violence. It is a reminder that we all--participants and onlookers alike--are complicit in the barbarities of war. It is our responsibility as writers to speak of the cruelty that each of us is capable of: cruelty that in the far-flung desert reaches of the empire, away from public scrutiny, seems to multiply with the wind's breath, like loess grains. Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya fulfills his responsibility superbly.”
—Anna Badkhen, author of Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories and Waiting for the Taliban

“It is common to speak of certain wars as ‘tragedies,’ with the implication that as terrible as such wars are, no one is to be blamed for them. This astonishing novel reclaims tragedy’s primal roots and locates them in America's occupation of Afghanistan. The Watch is a work of beauty and terror, exacting in its realism, breathtaking in the range of its sympathy, devastating in its judgment.”
—Peter Trachtenberg, author of The Book of Calamities and 7 Tattoos

“The Watch is the most brilliant novel to be written about one of the defining events of the start of the 21st century. With this book, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya has proved himself to be the modern Norman Mailer. The Watch is a stunning account of war, of the terrifying range of emotions, the despair and the sheer fatigue which men have to endure in combat. It is a must-read for anyone interested in our common humanity and the terrible things we do to each other. The Watch is quite simply superb.” 
—ABC Brisbane (Australia)

“A striking new novel draws inspiration from classical literature to paint a vivid portrait of modern war. …As good as it is important. Roy-Bhattacharya goes from strength to strength in the closing stages of what develops into a remarkable novel, because of his use of memory filtered through the horrors of the moment. By drawing on classical literature, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya has fashioned a beautiful and heartfelt lamentation.”
—Irish Times

“I felt within Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s pages a carefully attuned mind examining and analyzing all sides of the Afghanistan debate, an attitude found less frequently in fiction than in drama. It is a relief to hear it again in this novel, as the boundaries blur between good and bad, between new and old, between audience and actors, between them and us.”
Black Balloon

“Roy-Bhattacharya captures the ethos of the battle weary troops and their vernacular in a striking way, and drives home another central point of his novel - the cultural distance that prevails not only between the Americans and Afghanis, but between the U.S. military personnel who have been called upon to fight this war - over the course of repeated tours of duty - and the general American public.”
—Manchester Journal

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307955890
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/5/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya was educated in politics and philosophy at Presidency College, Calcutta, and the University of Pennsylvania. His novels The Gabriel Club and The Storyteller of Marrakesh have been published in fourteen languages. He lives in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.

Visit him at

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013


    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Battlefield. This word immediately stirs up a myriad of images,

    Battlefield. This word immediately stirs up a myriad of images, anything from charging horses and swords to beaches strewn with mines, numbered hills and rice patties, or a dry barren patch of desert in Afghanistan. Some of the fiercest, most frightening battles are fought on the smallest field of all - the one inside each participant's mind.

    The enemy. Traditionally, the men in those other uniforms. Morphed into present, the enemy is the man, woman or child currently trying to destroy you. Forget the uniforms. Forget the military insignia identifying opposing sides. Forget tradition. Hope you have good instincts and excellent reaction time and never let your guard down.

    War. Armed clashes over territory, wealth, political/religious ideals, revenge, most any issue that has two or more sides. Sometimes the reasons are so clear they need little justification. Sometimes, you have to wonder.......

    This is the story of a woman's attempt to claim her brother's body. Her stated intention - to bury him according to religious and tribal tradition. It is complicated by the fact her brother was killed leading a bloody raid on this remote army fort.

    Interestingly, this story is told in the first person, a different person with each chapter. The reader has a chance to see the situation through so many eyes, to experience the full spectrum of emotions that accompany it. To attempt to understand that which defies understanding.

    At the end of the first chapter, some may consider putting this book aside. Don't. Read it. Digest it. And, if you are brave enough, this book will hold up a mirror for you to examine. Gaze into your own heart and mind when you finish. Are you comfortable with who you see?

    I won this book on Goodreads

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012


    This novel is extremely well-written and intrresting. The reader feels what it is like to be inside each of the characters minds with regard to a specific incident. The writer captures the intensity the soldiers feel. The ending was a great twist. I generally do not read war novels but this one is about the human condition. A great read, especially if you need to clear th 50 Shades trilogy out of your mind!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Not good

    I wish i did not waste my time reading this book. Although i understand the intent, the writing format of jumping from the present state to a dream like state can be hard to follow. War is not a rosy subject, so i did not expect this to be a happy story. However, i did expect something redemptive in the storyline. It's not there.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)