Author: Sarah Waters
Publication Date: 4/30/09
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Blurb (GR): A chilling and vividly rendered ghost story set in postwar Britain, by the bestselling and award-winning author of The Night Watch and Fingersmith.
Sarah Waters's trilogy of Victorian novels Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith earned her legions of fans around the world, a number of awards, and a reputation as one of today's most gifted historical novelists. With her most recent book, The Night Watch, Waters turned to the 1940s and delivered a tender and intricate novel of relationships that brought her the greatest success she has achieved so far. 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.
Abundantly atmospheric and elegantly told, The Little Stranger is Sarah Waters's most thrilling and ambitious novel yet.
Looking back at The Little Stranger, I think I quite liked the novel as a whole, especially the ending that wrapped up the tale in a curious and deliciously ambiguous and enigmatic way.
This sort-of-ghost-story is an interesting portrayal of the downfall of an aristocratic family in post-war Britain and a deep exploration of what it means (psychologically) for such a family to witness a slow dilapidation of its once grand estate.
Sarah Waters's writing is elegant and her descriptions of both decaying Hundreds Hall and its defeated inhabitants are haunting and atmospheric. And the narrator, Dr. Faraday, the over-involved spectator, is quite an amusing specimen to watch and get to know.
My main problem is, though, why couldn't this book be a couple of hundred pages shorter? I couldn't help myself wishing Daphne du Maurier had written it in half the page count. As much as I enjoyed Waters' writing, I felt the pacing at times was excruciatingly slow. I am glad I decided to listen to the audio version of this novel, because, truth be told, I don't think I have enough stamina for such a slow-moving, atmosphere- rather than plot-oriented story. The audio allowed me to keep up with the narration easily (in reality, not much happens in this novel), while not missing out on much during the times I found my mind drifting away from the story.
It is amazing how different The Little Stranger is from Sarah Waters's debut novel. Even though both novels are very worthy creations, I personally much prefer the author's romp-y and raunchy Tipping the Velvet.