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The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger (2009)

by Sarah Waters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Dr. Faraday, a local GP in a Warwickshire town, is called out to tend to a sick housemaid at the local manor house, Hundreds Hall. There he meets the Ayres family, the last of a noble line, and sees their once-beautiful estate fallen to ruins through impoverishment and neglect. A relationship forms between Faraday and the Ayres family, and he becomes both doctor and guest to the widowed mother and her two surviving children, who are in their twenties.

Terrible and inexplicable tragedies occur at Hundreds Hall. Injuries, death, and madness plague the family and their guests. Sarah Waters is a dab hand at invoking atmosphere, and much like Shirley Jackson's Hill House, the building itself becomes a place of tension, fear, and power. The book is creepy, not a book to be read when one is alone at night, and it is a well-narrated tale that genuinely captures the essence of its characters.

I would have given the book more stars were I not dissatisfied with the ending, about which I will say nothing more. It's a good book for anyone who likes spine-tingling tales. ( )
  ahef1963 | Jun 26, 2017 |
This is quite a good novel. It's scary in an understated way that makes it even scarier. Add in the elements of sexism and the paternalistic manner of members of professions that see themselves as the sole keepers of reason, and this novel leaves the reader feeling just as trapped as the characters.

It feels a bit like an alternate ending to Downton Abbey, only I never felt the need to leave the lights on after watching Downton Abbey. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 20, 2017 |
Sarah Waters’ fifth novel, The Little Stranger, opens in rural Warwickshire in 1947. It is a strange time. War is over, but its effects are still being felt, and the world is changing.

Before the war Hundreds House was a grand place. Dr Faraday remembers visiting as a small boy when his mother was one of a veritable army who ensured things ran smoothly.

But when he is called out to see a sick serving girl he finds things much changed. Colonel Ayres, the head of the house, is dead, leaving his widow, a son, who was badly injured in the war, and a daughter. The army of staff is reduced to a single maid and a charwoman, and the family is fighting a losing battle to keep home and finances intact.

For a long time that seemed to be all that there was, and only the quality of the writing and my faith in Sarah Waters kept me turning the pages.

Then finally the real story began.

The first significant incident happens when the new owners of a neighbouring estate visit. They are ill-mannered, mocking the old-fashioned house and hospitality and boasting of the modernity that they will bring to their own home. But one moment that evening will shock them and change the course of their lives.

Was the cause supernatural, or was it something more prosaic?

That question repeats, as strange things keep happening and the Ayres family crumbles.

The Little Stranger is many things. Yes it is, as billed, a ghost story, and though the haunting is not sustained, there are moments of fear, pain and grief as vivid as anything I have read. It is also a wonderful human drama and a compelling portrait of a country and a class system on the brink of change.

What it lacks though is the colour and flamboyance that made Sarah Waters’ earlier novels so beguiling.

That is in large part down to the narrator. Dr Faraday is a dull an unimaginative middle-aged man, who clings to rational explanations for everything. It’s an interesting – and maybe brave – choice and it is a measure of Sarah Waters’ skill that she makes this work as well as she does.

And there is a twist. Not an obvious jolt, but something much more subtle that changes the way that you look at characters, incidents and possibilities.

It made me want to go back and look at things again, and this could well be a book that has much more to offer with subsequent readings.

And the ending? It’s subtle and could be read in more than one way.

The Little Stranger, though maybe not entirely successful, was an interesting path for Sarah Waters to try, and I am intrigued to see where she goes next. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Apr 18, 2017 |
Sarah Waters has legions of fans, but I wasn’t expecting much from The Little Stranger, and so I wasn’t disappointed. It’s quite an enjoyable Gothic/ghost tale, but it’s a bit too long for itself and even the faultless narration by Simon Vance didn’t prevent my attention from wandering a bit.

The story is set in rural Warwickshire, in post-war Britain, where the Bolshie Labour government is taxing the aristocrats out of their Stately Homes so that they can fund the National Health Service. The narrator, Dr Faraday, is conflicted about this because as a working-class lad made good, he is conscious of his origins but likes hanging about with Posh People. He becomes the family doctor of the troubled family on the Hundreds Estate, where Roderick is physically and mentally damaged by his time in the RAAF, and where Caroline has had to leave a potentially more interesting life in London to come home and look after him and her widowed mother Mrs Ayres. (But Caroline is stoic about this, as befits her unmarried status and Roderick’s status as a war hero. Oh yes, and also befitting her Responsibility to The Estate).

The catalyst for Faraday’s first visit is the mysterious illness of the servant Betty. (The house is falling to bits, the weeds are miles high, but gosh, they can’t possibly do without a servant, can they?) Faraday, quite capable of patronising people from the same class origin as himself) discovers that Betty thinks there is a Presence in the house. She is only 14 and she wants to go home, but Dr F dismisses it all as nonsense and promises her that he won’t tell anyone that she was faking as long as she gets back to work. Which she does, and becomes A Loyal Retainer thereafter, but she retains the right to mutter about The Presence, of course).

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/04/17/the-little-stranger-by-sarah-waters-narrated-by-simon-vance/ ( )
1 vote anzlitlovers | Apr 16, 2017 |
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While at one turn, the novel looks to be a ghost story, the next it is a psychological drama of the calibre of du Maurier's Rebecca. But it is also a brilliantly observed story, verging on comedy, about Britain on the cusp of the modern age.
In the end, though, however fresh the prose, confident the plotting and astute the social analysis, The Little Stranger has a slightly secondhand feel to it. Waters is clearly at the top of her game, with few to match her ability to bring the past to life in a fully imagined world. I look forward to the book in which she leaves behind past templates, with their limitations, and breaks away to make her own literary history.
I guess the Waters fans I spoke to were right to be anxious. There is plenty of lovely writing here, and the plot wasn't so dissatisfying that it put me off entirely. But it made me wary. Should I be? Or is it her worst work? Or, indeed, am I missing something? Over to you.
The Little Stranger, like all the best works of postmodernist fiction, acknowledges both that making up stories is a mistaken and hopeless way to try to understand the world, and at the same time that it’s the best – perhaps the only – way we have.
The story ends in madness, suicide and a creepy darkness reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" -- mixed with jolts of anxiety and social upheaval reminiscent of today's news.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Waters, Sarahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
中村有希訳Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bartocci, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borges, Ana Luiza DantasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Defossé, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dewey, AmandaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gawlik-Małkowska, MagdalenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groen, NicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ho, AndreaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kwakkel, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leibmann, UteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puchalská, Barbora PungeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rooijen, Lucie vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ropret, AlenkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trevillions, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
林曉芳Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Сафронова, АлександраTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my parents, Mary and Ron, and my sister, Deborah.
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I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old.
I'd regularly heard her referred to locally as 'rather hearty', a 'natural spinster', a 'clever girl' - in other words she was noticeably plain.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
Haiku summary
Strange happenings at
Hundreds Hall: poltergeist or
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One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall, the residence of the Ayres family for more than two centuries. Its owners, mother, son and daughter, are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as conflicts of their own. But the Ayreses are haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life.… (more)

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