The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

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The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

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Jul 28, 2011, 11:44 pm

A thread on which to discuss the above titled book.

Jul 28, 2011, 11:45 pm

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: I hardly know where to start. This one took me in gently, grabbed me and held me throughout. Strangely enough, the character I cared the least about was Caroline. I simply was unable to read her and get into her. I cared about all of the other characters, even the minor ones. Thus, the 4 1/2 stars. Otherwise I would have easily rated this one a 5 star read.
And 'the little stranger', indeed, turned out to be what/whom I thought it to be. It made sense, it fit perfectly........but I didn't like it. Not that I didn't like it in the read. I think it had to be that way.
The story is one of a doctor who comes to the village and in his work, he falls for the sister of one of his patients. Eventually they plan to marry but things occur and continue to occur that keep putting the wedding at bay.
The house of his patient is one of the old 'great houses' and I think the good doctor falls in love with the house as well even though it is in ill repair. Things fall through in the end, literally..............and we are rather back where we began but with our head still in the story.
The entire book is rather a head-game with the characters and with the reader as well. I liked it a great deal and would have loved it if the character, Caroline, had been more believable to me. Still and all it was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

Jul 31, 2011, 6:57 am

I recommend The Little Stranger too! Here's my review:

Come by The Little Stranger, and you’ll meet one heck of a creepy character. You may be surprised to learn that it’s not a person or monster. In fact, it’s a house: Hundreds Hall – a sprawling English manor that takes on a life of its own. Turning an inanimate object into a seemingly living character is no small task, but left in the hands of Sarah Waters, Hundreds Hall becomes exactly that – something living, animate and downright spooky.

Inside Hundreds Hall lives the Ayres family, who is struggling to keep their farm profitable after World War II. The once-grandiose home was falling apart – and taking the family down with it. We meet the family through Dr. Faraday, a country doctor who came to Hundreds Hall on a house visit. He starts to treat Roderick Ayres for his wartime knee injury, but it became apparent that Roderick was suffering from more – a type of severe mental stress that was affecting him day by day. Roderick claims something in the house was trying to hurt his family – and this something was leaving burn marks all over his room. Roderick’s delusions and paranoia rob him of all logic, and he becomes the house’s first victim.

As Dr. Faraday helps the family with Roderick’s illness, he gets closer and closer to Mrs. Ayres and Roderick’s sister, Caroline. The weight of caring for Hundreds Hall is great, and Dr. Faraday does what he can to ease their burdens. Despite his best efforts, the house continues to affect the family – first with the haunting of poor Mrs. Ayres and then Caroline. The whole time, the family believes the house was to blame. However, many in the community chalk it up to the Ayres’ reluctance to adjust to the new order of things in England. Others claim it was a “family taint” – a mental condition that struck all of the family members. Whatever the cause, the family was on an unstoppable downward spiral.

The Little Stranger, in a word, was spine-tingling. Certain scenes left me white-knuckled and near sleepless. It was the perfect book for cool autumn nights. Many were disappointed in the book’s ending, but I thought it was somehow appropriate. Waters left it as mysterious as Hundreds Hall itself. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the mysterious, the old and the creepy. The Little Stranger has it all.

Jul 31, 2011, 1:15 pm

Excellent review Jill and I am so happy that you liked the book so much. It's a 'great' one, I think.

Jul 31, 2011, 5:06 pm

That's so interesting Belva! I definitely empathised with Caroline, and towards the end (*spoiler alert*) I was rooting so hard for her to escape from the creepy doctor in time. I really want to reread it, because I was expecting a much more elaborate explanation for the 'little stranger' (as in her earlier books) and had this v complicated theory all worked out in my head, so the last fifty-ish pages or so I read feverishly to see when I was right. And then when she instead left it quite ambiguous, I felt let's funny, usually I love an open ending, but I think from my expectations due to the other novels of hers that I've read, I ended up a bit cranky. But the more I thought about it, and read about it, the more I came to appreciate it. So now I want to read it again, without the expectation of a tidy, detailed explanation at the end!

Aug 7, 2011, 3:17 am

I read an interview with Sarah Waters where she says she didn't intend the book to be open ended. There are definite clues to who/what is responsible for the strange occurences in the house and she said that there is a final clue in the last paragraphs. I was pleased about that as it confirmed my suspicions! I will have a search for the interview and provide a link if I can find it.

Eva, I have had similar experiences of constructing my own complicated endings and then feeling a bit flat when there isn't much to the actual ending. I remember feeling like that with The Observations by Jane Harris.

Aug 7, 2011, 10:58 am

I really enjoyed The Little Stranger when I read it last year. Here's what I said in the review I wrote then.

The best thing I can say about this book is that I am still thinking about it, hours after I finished it. The building suspense and especially the ambiguous ending, as well as Waters' compelling writing, are to thank for that.

Much has been written about this book, but to briefly summarize, it is the story of a possibly haunted house, class, a family in economic and psychological distress, and the social changes taking place in postwar (1947) England, told by a very unreliable (in my opinion) narrator, a doctor with working class origins who befriends the family living in the local manor house, a family which, like the house they live in, is decaying and crumbling before our eyes.

Is the house haunted, and if so by whom? Are the family members psychologically disturbed? Are their own obsessions and repressions revealing themselves physically? Is the friendly doctor not, in fact, so friendly? Waters is a master of suspense and reversal, taking us through a long eventless beginning and ratcheting up the creepiness a little bit at a time. We know something bad will happen, but what will it be and why is it happening?

All in all, while I could barely put this book down, it is not up to the remarkable surprises of Fingersmith.

Aug 13, 2011, 1:49 pm

Dee, I'll be curious to see that interview! I think the person responsible is made pretty clear by the end, and it's the person I suspected all along, but I was still left w a lot of questions re: the existence and extent of a supernatural element, the awareness of the person as to their own guilt, etc. :)

Aug 14, 2011, 3:42 am

Yes Eva, I know what you mean about the supernatural element. The question of "who did it" was more or less resolved but how it was achieved wasn't. I will have another look for that article. I'm sure I read it online so it should be there somewhere...

Aug 14, 2011, 3:55 am

I don't think this is the article I read originally but it is very interesting re. the points you raised, Eva.

Waters says:

"My usual response is to say that I deliberately left the resolution open; that I wanted to do justice to the essential strangeness of the supernatural; that I am very happy for readers to make up their own minds. All this is true – sort of. The fact is, I worked hard to spike the novel with clues as to where, exactly, the "bundle of projected repressions" which consumes Hundreds Hall has its roots; the spikiest of these is the book's last line. When these clues do snag their reader, I experience a glow of writerly satisfaction and feel I pitched things just right. When they don't – well, The Little Stranger is about conflict and waste; I never wanted its effect to be tidy."

Aug 14, 2011, 5:20 pm

I think Waters succeeded nicely.

Aug 15, 2011, 2:18 pm

That is interesting, and I think when I reread it I'll completely appreciate what Waters did! It's just difficult when you have radically different expectations to change gears, hehe.

Feb 17, 2015, 6:39 pm

Oh........... Well, I'm glad that I came over here. Thanks, all!