Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Release Date: April 30, 2009
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline—its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.
Abundantly atmospheric and elegantly told, The Little Stranger is Sarah Waters’s most thrilling and ambitious novel yet.
When I first read a review of The Little Stranger on the Publisher’s Weekly website and noticed that it was a starred review, I knew I definitely wanted to read this book. As many of you probably know, I love gothic mysteries and The Little Stranger seemed to fit right into that category.
The Little Stranger is a very well-crafted novel about post-war Britain. In large part, it is a commentary on the changes a class-based society was forced to endure after World War II. Waters presents this skillfully and subtly and it’s very well done.
I have to admit though, as a mystery, I was a little bit disappointed with The Little Stranger. It is incredibly well-written but the fact is that the main point of the novel wasn’t the mystery. Therefore, in some ways it is peripheral to the story and never fully resolved. The book is much of a psychological study – it focuses on what happens to people when they think there might be a malevolent presence in their home. While it really was impeccably done, I still feel like there was something missing. I would have loved the mystery to be explored more thoroughly, and wrapped up in a more satisfying manner.
Waters’ writing provides a haunting quality to the book. Through the entire novel, it seems like something is going on just below the surface that the reader can’t quite grasp. Indeed, it even affects the narrator, Dr. Faraday; by the end of the book, I honestly couldn’t tell whether he was actually interested in the Ayres family or was obsessed with their falling-apart house. As a result, Faraday is a completely unreliable narrator, always doubting and questioning the other characters, and in some ways, he really determines their fates for them.
Though the length of The Little Stranger might seem daunting, the book itself sets a quick pace. Waters creates a healthy level of suspense that pushes the story forward and spurs the reader on. As a result, the pages turn much more quickly than expected.
The Little Stranger is a very well-written book. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but once I got past that, I fell into its natural rhythm and was sucked into the compelling storyline. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you are interested in the prospect of historical fiction combined with social commentary and a ghost story with a psychological twist!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review!