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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Sarah Waters (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,3621694,097 (3.6)240
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)
Title:The Paying Guests
Authors:Sarah Waters (Author)
Info:Riverhead Books (2014), Edition: Reprint, 568 pages
Collections:Read, Your library

Work details

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (2014)

Recently added byrena75, private library, reginahanna, JaniceMonaghan, chauveaux, jmriowa, RULENE, EKS95, preetibee
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» See also 240 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
This book just is not the type of work I enjoy. The lesbian relationship between the main character and wife of the victim was distracting (but necessary) to the plot. ( )
  DrApple | Jul 31, 2019 |
Sarah Waters crafts some of the most wonderful love stories I've ever read. She is a master at capturing all the emotional - and physical - ripples that come when you fall for someone. On the other hand, the crime aspect falls flat. I maybe would have liked if the book was a "whydunit" or if there were more twists, like a typical crime story. While the first two thirds is very romantic, the last third deals with the main character's guilt, which is not very engaging or sympathetic. ( )
  doryfish | Jul 31, 2019 |

The Paying Guests really blew me away. It's 1922. Frances and her mother, having lost Frances' brothers in the war and her father soon after, are in reduced circumstances and need to take lodgers. Lilian and Leonard are of a less genteel social background and there is a restrained clash of cultures - and then romance, and then murder. The sense of a society where many of the young men have been killed but the old men are still in control is conveyed very effectively, and Frances as the viewpoint character is tremendously sympathetic even when she does things that are fundamentally not very nice. Waters claims to have researched the legal process around murder trials pretty intensely, but the book wears that fairly lightly. Really strongly recommended. ( )
  nwhyte | Jul 14, 2019 |
The story unfolded slowly. A bit too slowly. The second half was better, but the ending was disappointing. ( )
  Beth.Clarke | Jun 28, 2019 |
I just longed to get to the end of this one. Two thirds into the book I wanted to abandon it but I felt I had too much time invested in it so kept on going. What a slog!

Set in 1922 the story begins with a mother and daughter in straitened circumstances being forced to open their home to lodgers. The background of genteel poverty opens up many opportunities, after all, it's been a topic for many writers in the history of English literature, but Waters can't pull it off. The characters, are poorly developed, the writing is repetitive and overwrought, there is just too much going on and even then it's boring, especially the graphic sex element. The bloody parts were bloodier than the seriously grisly crime novel I'm reading. Far too long, it could have been cut by half and would have been improved.

What I didn't like about this book would fill pages. However, Juliet Stevenson's flawless narration raised my rating far above what it would have been if I'd read the print version. ( )
  VivienneR | May 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 171 (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
Waters, Sarahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, JulietNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carra, LeopoldoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Defossé, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groen, NicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jong, Sjaak deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leibmann, UteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyng, HildeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mörk, YlvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Versluys, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Judith Murray,
with thanks and with love
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

» see all 6 descriptions

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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