Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Hardcover: 463 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books/Penguin
Published date: 2009
FTC: bought at library book sale

Sarah Waters is an author I've been meaning to read for years.  I've accumulated all of her books except Affinity and have been needing an excuse to read one of her books. So when I heard through Carl's R.I.P. VII experience that Andi and Heather were hosting a Read-a-long of The Little Stranger at their blog Estella Society, I had to join along.

Bad me.  I read up to halfway a bit early - too early to post my halfway thoughts - and then I jumped the gun and had to finish it. So I failed at the "read-a-long" part but I succeeded in reading my first Sarah Waters novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Talk about a well-written gothic ghost story. No wonder she is always getting shortlisted for the The Man Booker and The Orange Prizes.

Back of the Book:

With The Little Stranger, Waters revisits the fertile setting of Britain in the 1940s-and gives us a sinister tale of a haunted house, brimming with the rich atmosphere and psychological complexity that have become hallmarks of Waters's work.

The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline-its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

My thoughts:

I knew when I finally picked up one of Sarah Waters' novels, I would wonder why it ever took me so long to read one. I was totally right.  Pick up a glass of wine or a cup of english tea, settle into your couch, light a few mood candles for creepy effect, and delve into her gothic tale.

I loved it.  It's so weird because it's a book that takes SO incredibly long to tell the tale and as I was trying to describe it to my husband, I was really at loss for words on how to relate the story.  I just was hooked.  Sarah Waters is an amazing writer.  I got so wrapped up in the crumbling mansion, the absolute normalcy of the Ayres family as they just try to keep the estate going, and the "little stranger" aspect....awesome. The story is written all from Dr. Faraday's perspective and he seems or is such a respectable and likeable character.  For some reason I kept thinking of Dr. Faraday looking like Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey -- not your traditional handsome or young guy but someone you still root for nonetheless. I had a harder time pinning Caroline down until I finally pictured her like Kelly Macdonald.  It totally fit.  Roderick was super easy -- he's totally Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket from Great Expectations.  For some reason I'm on a huge kick of casting characters in my head as I read books.  Moving on...

I absolutely adored the theme of how upper class families with estates like these had such a hard time hanging on and managing them after the two world wars. Times were changing.  This seems like such an interesting theme lately that I hit on while reading The Orchid House (my review) as well.

My only problem with the book is probably the length.  I didn't really feel it's length until halfway through and then I had that nagging feeling of "where is this going?? and why is it taking so long??" but then it started to get more spooky so it was fine.  Still.  Cut a 100 pages or so and it'd still be awesome.

That and the ending.  But I'm not going to tell you unless you've read it so that means it's...

SPOILER TIME!!  I get to do this because of the read-a-long part :)

First of all -- how awesome is it that Dr Faraday was the narrator and at the end I just didn't know if he was lying to me, if he was deluding himself, or if it really was a ghost?  What do you think?  Do you think the Little Stranger was Dr Faraday, the ghost of the dead child, a different ghostly thing, the family just going nuts...???  I just don't know!!  And that's how it ends! You just don't know!! ARG! After I finished the book I rudely snapped the book shut and my husband looked up at me and my disgusted face and asked how it ended. I said "I don't know, it's one of those types of endings" a "cliff-hanger" almost.  I was annoyed.  But thinking back on it, I think I actually like the up in the air ending better than it all spelled out. It's so much creepier and disturbing that way.

As usual, if you head over to Carl's review of The Little Stranger and hit up his Spoiler section - he does an awesome job dissecting the thoughts and controversies over what we all think might have happened.  I like the idea of it being Dr Faraday's ghost -- seriously you have to head over there to see how that makes absolute sense.


So while at first I had serious issues with the ending, it ended up being perfect because as I see it, any book or ending that makes a ton of people want to discuss and blab about and Google other people's reaction seems like a winner to me.  Awesome job Sarah Waters.

Also Reviewed by:

Head over to Estella Society's Wrap up for a whole list of linky's


  1. This sounds great!! Anything like The Uninvited Guests? Or much more scary?

  2. I just called my library and they are holding the audiobook of The Little Stranger for me. I'll pick it up tomorrow and can't wait to start listening! :)

  3. The audiobook of The Little Stranger is waiting for me at our library. I hope it doesn't scare me too much. ;)