Tuesday, 26 January 2010
My Thoughts: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
I picked up The Little Stranger with trepidation on Saturday, I had seen bad reviews in blogland and a friend had told me that she thought it was awful (she normally love Sarah Waters). After 50 pages I was pleasantly surprised that I was enjoying it.
The Little Stranger is set in post-war England in the small village of Lidcote. The novel starts with a childs visit to a grand house where his mother had previously worked as a nursery nurse. In awe of the house he breaks part of a display down. I didn't realise that our narrator was a boy for many pages.
30 odd years later the boy visits the house again but this time as a doctor. The house is not as he remembered, not as big and grand, many of its rooms are shut up and old age and a lack of finances are clearly seen in the decoration and condition of the place. Living there is just the mother and a son and daughter, plus a young helpless maid. Gradually the doctor builds up a friendship with the members of the household, and visits them as both a doctor and a friend on a regular basis. Thats when things become strange.
The son, damaged by the war, keeps hearing noises and injuring himself, fires start and a placid dog attacks. Suddenly we are unsure if there is a spirit in the house or if one of the members of the household is out to cause havoc.
I enjoyed this read, and raced through the 500 pages in just two reading session. However, I would certainly not say this was Sarah Waters best, no Victorian underworlds splayed out in my imagination, no fancy narrative structure, no loveable illicit lesbians or crooks. This was just a ghost story, not highly original, and probably in need of a good editing. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but if I was writing her a school style report I would have scrawled 'Could do better' on the page.
There is a great discussion of the book here, the 'ghost' and Caroline's sexuality are discussed amongst other things.