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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
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The Paying Guests (2014)

by Sarah Waters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,2031524,178 (3.6)233
  1. 20
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (queencersei)
  2. 20
    Life Mask by Emma Donoghue (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Intimate friendships between women give rise to scandalous rumors and interpersonal drama in these character-driven historical novels. Although both London-set stories are atmospheric and richly detailed, The Paying Guests opens in the 1920s, Life Mask in the late eighteenth century.… (more)
  3. 00
    Burnt Bones by Michael Slade (Sandwich76)
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» See also 233 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
In 1920s London, the daughter of a widowed owner of a boarding house meets a husband and wife, paying guests, and falls in love with the wife. Her husband is abusive. This would have been a good read but for the explicit lovemaking scenes between the daughter and the wife. I just don't need the voyeurism, frankly. Maybe it's for younger readers. ( )
  deckla | Jul 15, 2018 |
The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.
  JESGalway | May 29, 2018 |
I read this entire book yesterday, because it was Yom Kippur and before and after services I literally had nothing else to do other than read. It made for excellent Yom Kippur reading because it completely distracted me from the fact that I was fasting. In fact, when it was time to break the fast I kind of didn't want to leave because there were still 80 pages left in the book.

Having said that, it's not Sarah Waters's best effort. The best part, in my opinion, was the first half, in which not much happens other than world-building and character development. Waters is so freaking good at establishing the historical milieu for her novels; you really feel that you are there, and the characters really make sense as part of that world. I could have wandered around the early Twenties with Frances and Lillian for a long time.

But then the plot twist came, and although it made for gripping reading, the reading experience becomes all about the plot. I won't say the novel becomes all about the plot, because I don't think the problem is that Waters drops all the little historical touches so much as it is that the plot is suddenly so big and exciting and busy that the reader stops noticing the more subtle notes. At least I did.

I didn't mind the ending, but I didn't love it, either. It didn't quite ring true to me. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Slow works for ketchup, school zones, dancing with someone you love and “The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters.

Readers of modern thrillers expect them to live up to their genre on every page, but you can be more than half way through “The Paying Guests” before you even realize it might be a thriller. For the first half you think it’s just a lesbian romance, which may be shocking enough for some of us.

Waters uses her slow buildup, with elegant prose, to develop her characters and to make what follows — sudden violence, a shocking death, a police investigation and a nail-biter of a trial — all the more convincing.

The year is 1922, and the shadow of the Great War still hangs over England. Frances Wray lost two brothers in France, and her father, perhaps from the shock, has also died. She and her mother live alone in a big house. To pay mounting bills they decide to take in lodgers, whom they choose to call paying guests.

Those paying guests turn out to be a flamboyant young couple named Leonard and Lilian Barber. Leonard works for an insurance company but seems, to Frances at least, coarse and seedy. At first she can’t decide whether the woman is just tacky in her fashion choices and room decor or whether she actually has a keen artistic sense.

With Leonard working long hours and Mrs. Wray frequently gone for charity work or on social calls, the two young women are frequently left alone together and quite gradually become friends, then lovers. The Barber marriage isn’t a happy one, and Lilian is ripe for someone to love. Frances has known she prefers women for several years.

At first the two women just dream of a life together. Finally they decide to make the break, Lilian from her husband, Frances from her mother. Then Lilian learns she is pregnant, which spoils their plans. She decides on a do-it-yourself remedy, which leaves a bloody mess that Leonard finds when he comes home early that night. And so the thriller begins.

This is an exceptional book that will reward the patient reader. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Apr 25, 2018 |
Wow! What an incredible book. Sarah Waters has created a marvelous piece of historical fiction set in England 1922 in a genteel Camberwell neighborhood. The war has ended. Many have died, including the protagonist’s two brothers and her father. Those that returned from the war are disillusioned. Frances Wray and her mother are left bankrupt by their father who squandered away their money. They have dismissed the servants and are now taking in boarders. Frances does all the cleaning and cooking herself, while her mother is out, so that she will not have to watch her daughter stooping to that occupation.

The guests who become “the paying guests” are a young couple of the clerk class, Mr. and Mrs. Barber (Leonard and Lilian.) Mr. Barber is talkative and makes Frances uncomfortable with his innuendos. Mrs. Barber hides herself away at first, but soon she and Frances develop a close friendship. As they grow closer, Frances divulges to Lilian that she had been in love with a woman, Christina, but was made to put an end to the relationship by her parents. In a time when London has been devastated by war, the family brought down by multiple deaths and financial ruin, certain societal norms are not to be challenged.

The knowledge that Frances is a lesbian or had a lesbian lover seemingly creates a tension or barrier to their friendship. Lilian avoids Frances until the night of Lilian’s family party which she had invited Frances to many weeks prior in Mr. Barber’s stead as he had a supper to attend that evening.

At the party, Mrs. Barber dances freely with several gentleman and even with Frances. After returning home, they find Leonard has been assaulted and is in the kitchen with a bloodied nose and face. Later that evening, Frances and Lilian return to the kitchen and embark on their steamy sultry love affair making love in the pantry. The love affair continues and their feelings continue to grow until Leonard is accidentally murdered which is ruled a homicide. This leads to a coverup, incredible tension, outing of other affairs, and the need for deep secrecy of their own love affair.

This book is amazing on so many levels. The historical piece seems so spot on and well done. There was never a point where anything seemed even questionably out of the time period. I felt as if I were dwelling in London in the 1920s alongside these characters. The character building and tension that was created were so well done. I must admit I was getting antsy during the investigation and the trial that seemed to go on for so long, but that was the point. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. It keeps me questioning Lillian’s motives while still hoping the romance will last. This novel would make an excellent independent film with sexy enthralling characters. It would be amazing! It is an incredibly written book that I highly recommend to everyone. The one caveat is that it can seem to be going really slow at some points, which I didn't mind, but might not appeal to some. ( )
  marieatbookchatter | Apr 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 156 (next | show all)
"Some novels are so good, so gripping or shattering that they leave you uncertain whether you should have ever started them. You open “The Paying Guests” and immediately surrender to the smooth assuredness of Sarah Waters’s silken prose. Nothing jars. You relax. You turn more pages. You start turning them faster. Before long, you resemble Coleridge’s Wedding-Guest: You cannot choose but read. The book has you in thrall. You will follow Waters and her story anywhere. Yet when that story ends, you find yourself emotionally sucked dry, as much stunned as exhilarated by the power of art."
added by lorax | editWashington Post, Michael Dirda (Sep 10, 2014)
 
The superbly talented Sarah Waters — three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize — leads her readers into hidden worlds, worlds few of us knew existed. And so it is with The Paying Guests. ..Amid this heart-crushing drama, uncaring London grinds on, a cacophony of “hooves, voices, hurrying steps, the clash and grinding of iron wheels” that threatens to destroy the hopes of summer: an utterly engrossing tale.
 
Novel tackles big themes but lacks bite...Yet the love story’s progression – to say more would give too much away – is not entirely convincing by the end..Characterisation has a hint of familiarity, as if characters have been derived from Waters’ bank of past creations, and they lose some of their gleam for it, though the story stays emotionally-charged...
 
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters' superb, bewitching new novel, is set in 1922 London...My only quibble with The Paying Guests is its length; the last hundred pages or so chronicle a court trial and feel padded, the first time I've ever had that reaction to a Sarah Waters novel. Otherwise, this is a magnificent creation, a book that doubles as a time machine, flinging us back not only to postwar London, but also to our own lost love affairs, the kind that left us breathless — and far too besotted to notice that we had somehow misplaced our moral compass.
 
This fascinating domestic scenario might have made for an absorbing short novel;... Its pastiche propriety and faux-Edwardian prose (people are forever "colouring" and "crimsoning" and "putting themselves tidy") become irritants; and the novel's descent into melodrama as a murder is committed – and the inspector called – turns this engaging literary endeavour into a tiresome soap opera....Waters's unusual gift for drama and for social satire is squandered on the production of middlebrow entertainment:.. it would be good to see Waters produce something corrective and sharp, in which her authoritative and incisive dramatic style was permitted to be sufficient satisfaction on its own.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Watersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stevenson, JulietReader (Eng)main authorsome editionsconfirmed
Acedo, Sara RDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Audio, PenguinPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneKääNt.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carra, LeopoldoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Defossé, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Forner, AlisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groen, NicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jong, Sjaak deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kauppi, Lo.Uppläsaresecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leibmann, UteÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyng, HildeOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mörk, YlvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McMillian, MichelleDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
UK, Hachette AudioPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Versluys, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Barbers had said they would arrive by three.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
From the bestselling author of "The Little Stranger "and "Fingersmith," an enthralling novel about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London. It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa--a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants--life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the "clerk class," the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances's life--or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction, and here she has delivered again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place, "The Paying Guests" is Sarah Waters's finest achievement yet.
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It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.… (more)

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