Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Synopsis From Back Cover:

One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall.  Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in it stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine.  It's owners - mother, son, and daughter - are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their won.  But are thy Ayreses haunted by something more sinister 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.

I finally did it, I read a Sarah Waters book and I loved it.  Her books have been on my list for a while now but I always seemed to get distracted by something else.  When I found The Little Stranger for a dollar, I could no longer pass it up. The problem, or maybe it wasn't a problem, was that as soon as I bought it, I had a uncontrollable urge to read it.  Every time I picked something else up, this book cried out "No, Read Me!".  Once I obeyed, I couldn't put it down.

I found myself getting lost not only in the story of this family but in the Hall itself.  I'm not sure one can be separated from the other.  The story of the Hall is the story of the family.  As the rate of decline speeds up in the Hall, it speeds up in the family.  Where one suffers a setback, so does the other.  There is no clear line of where they begin or end.  The fact that the decline is told in such lyrically descriptive detail kept me glued to the story and left me feeling a little cheated once the last page was turned.

Everything in this book is flawed.  There is no one thing or person that doesn't have a trace of that decay running through it.  This is a land and it's people that are struggling to find their way again after the war and their story is told through the lives of the Hall and it's inhabitants.  The tension and sense of foreboding that runs throughout the pages kept building in small waves that slowly started to submerge the characters and the Hall in a flood of terror and utter despair.

When I first started the book I was under the impression that Dr. Faraday was going to be the hero of the tale, but as I got to know him more, I'm not at all convinced that he wasn't behind the slow descent into madness that took place.  Whether or not the troubles took place at the hands of some supernatural force, Dr. Faraday's growing obsession with the Hall, or some combination of both, Dr. Faraday was at the heart of a lot of it.  He, more than any other character, illustrated for me the dangers of a new world that doesn't quite make sense anymore. 

As a quick side note, I've never thought of myself as a fan of Gothic fiction.  But lately I've found myself almost enraptured by the whole genre and have recently picked up several more book and plan on picking up even more.  I'm really enjoying myself as I get lost in the type of storytelling that takes place.  I'm not sure if this change in my taste is permanent or not, but I'm going have fun while it lasts.

Challenges: GLBT, M&S


bermudaonion said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who hears my books talking to me! LOL I keep hearing great things about this book - the gothic description scares me just a little - I'm not sure if I've ever read any gothic fiction.

Mystica said...

This was very good - a first of this type of genre for me as well. Surprisingly I enjoyed it.

Staci said...

I love Gothic and like you I picked up a copy of this one for 50 cents at a library sale...I just know I'll love it when I finally get to reading it!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I loved this book so I'm really glad to see you had the same experience. I've also read some of her other books and they are FANTASTIC - I actually liked them better than this one. I hope you'll continue on with more SW books because I know you'll really enjoy them.

Unknown said...

I, too, have been meaning to read this book since I first learned of it last year--courtesy of Ellen Datlow's annual recommendations. I am a sucker for a good ghost story, and by the sounds of it, this could be a great one.

I don't know when this year, but I must make it a point to read it this year.

Natazzz said...

Even though I'm a big fan of Sarah Waters and have read all of her other books, I haven't gotten around to reading the Little stranger yet.

To be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to, if it would be as good and interesting as the others, but reading your review, I'm thinking I need to start reading it right away.

Ceri said...

I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed this. :D It's like the book was calling out to you because it was clear you were going to enjoy it!

I love Gothic Literature and this story sounds like something I'd definitely read. I've never read anything by Sarah Waters but thanks to your review I'll definitely be giving her a go now. :D

Alexia561 said...

Excellent review! I love it when a book grabs you and won't let go!

Missie, The Unread Reader said...

You can't beat a buck.

And I'm pretty new to the Gothic genre as well. I have my first Sarah Waters, Fingersmith coming up for class later this semester.

Glad you had fun with this one. I will add it to my wishlist. Thanks.