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.


Vivienne said...

I am half way through it at the moment and i am loving it.

Jo said...

I enjoyed this too. I'm not qualified to say it's not her best since I've only read fingersmith and this one, but I definitely thought fingersmith was better!

Peta said...

I've just finished Fingersmith and really enjoyed reading it. I'm very tempted to read this book now as even if it's not quite as good as that I'm probably in for a treat!