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The Little Stranger Paperback – May 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Waters (The Night Watch) reflects on the collapse of the British class system after WWII in a stunning haunted house tale whose ghosts are as horrifying as any in Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Doctor Faraday, a lonely bachelor, first visited Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a parlor maid, at age 10 in 1919. When Faraday returns 30 years later to treat a servant, he becomes obsessed with Hundreds's elegant owner, Mrs. Ayres; her 24-year-old son, Roderick, an RAF airman wounded during the war who now oversees the family farm; and her slightly older daughter, Caroline, considered a natural spinster by the locals, for whom the doctor develops a particular fondness. Supernatural trouble kicks in after Caroline's mild-mannered black Lab, Gyp, attacks a visiting child. A damaging fire, a suicide and worse follow. Faraday, one of literature's more unreliable narrators, carries the reader swiftly along to the devastating conclusion. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
At its core, The Little Stranger is an old-fashioned ghost story, complete with spooky house, eccentric inhabitants, an air of general madness and malcontent, and a narrator who may not be as mild-mannered as he seems. What elevates this novel from the crowded genre is Waters’s ability to evoke the subtleties of the past as she skillfully weaves tension and dread into each paragraph. The reviewer from Newsday likened this tale to the psychological classic The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Perhaps the critic from the Telegraph (who voiced only a very minor complaint about the ending) summed up the reviewers’ opinions best of all by hailing this novel as a genuinely creepy story “guaranteed to make anyone with a pulse gibber in fright.”
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
At its core, the plot is a simple one: observed by the village doctor, a genteel landowning family, fallen on hard times, is gradually driven to madness and despair by the apparent presence of a malignant spirit inhabiting its crumbling mansion. The doctor searches for rational explanations, and the other characters cling to them, but gradually lose faith in his scientific reasoning. I don't know how she does it exactly, but somehow the author's genius with recurrent imagery and insinuation manages, by the closing chapters, to make the true explanation chillingly clear without ever actually spelling it out. The final few sentences were so creepy that I had to put Parks and Rec on in order to avoid giving myself nightmares (because I love a good scare, but am sufficiently self-aware to know I'm a total lightweight). This was a terrific book, tense and satisfying and well-written. I haven't even touched here on the primary theme of the decay of the English class system; it gives the book depth and texture, but I think you could be totally satisfied with this novel even reading it on a more superficial level.
*I mean joyful for me, not for the characters: who among us doesn't wish she could read The Woman In White again for the first time?
"The Little Stranger" is not -- well, not as "strange" as "Hill House" - at least not in quite the same way. It is a tale that comes across as being much more plausible. It is an intriguing tale of an English manor home fallen upon hard times and the high-society folks who live within its walls. It is a story of strange happenings within the walls, of a proud family struggling to keep their heads above water after the war and the kindness of the local country doctor who befriends them and is ultimately drawn into all of the mysterious happenings.
Right from the first page the author begins to establish a sense of time and place - characters that are so well fleshed out you easily envision each one. The writing flows so well and is so entriguing you find yourself quickly reading on to learn more and more. By the end of the book you feel as though the characters are your own neighbors and forelorn friends.
The "haunting" aspect of the story is quite subtle -- just the way I like it. Written for "thinking adults" and not necessarily those who want to be left shaking in their boots with fear as they turn each page, you are made to think about what is going on - left to puzzle out the strangeness of what occurs - just as the characters are doing. I can still envision the manor home, the class differences in society, and I still feel the emotions of each person involved. The strangeness of what occurs gives you an uneasy feeling - a touch of fear - a sense of foreboding. I felt that weird type of fear that leaves you wanting a bit more of it - the puzzlement of what is actually going on in that home.
To say much more will give away too much of the plot but just let me say this: the ending will forever haunt you -- it will leave you wondering and thinking about every little detail that transpired between the covers of this book. I will definitely wait about a month and then re-read this one! It is that well crafted - it is that good. My friends who have read this book each have a different conclusion about the end -- it is definitely a book for those who "think". If I could give this book a million "stars" for pleasure I certainly would. I highly recommend reading this tale of a very, very strange haunting and hope that the author crafts another equally brilliant - soon.
But this book is missing the joy of some of Sarah Waters' other books. It has more technical detail than her other books. With every incident there is a post-mortem. For the detectives, lawyers, and mystery lovers among us, the technical details involved in the series of incidents will pique their interest. For me, the abundance of technical details made for dry reading, and I longed to get back to going on rounds with Dr. Faraday. I'm more of a people person. If you love gothic mysteries, this might be your cup of tea, but don't expect complete closure because, although there are some answers to the mysteries, Waters leaves many questions unanswered.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great ghost story :)Read more
The "unreliable narrator" is the key. When Sarah Waters uses in the clumsiest way (and as a writer, Waters is anything BUT clumsy), such absurd...Read more