In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall.
Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, its owners - mother, son and daughter - struggling to keep pace.
But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister 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.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 512 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 05/01/2010
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781844086061
Showing 1 - 5 of 13 reviews.
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Review by pokarekareana
This was my third Sarah Waters book – the previous two being The Night Watch and Tipping The Velvet – and having loved the others, I came to this with perhaps unrealistically high expectations, buoyed up by its critical acclaim among People What Say Clever Things About Books. The writing, as ever, was beautiful to read and entirely transported me to the settings Waters created in this novel. However, when I arrived, I found myself a little bewildered. At times, I was completely absorbed by the plot, but at other times, I felt like it was plodding along very slowly. The characters were great and I could picture them down to the last detail, which was brilliant. Overall, I was a tiny bit disappointed with this and if you’ve never read any of her work before, I would suggest that you start with The Night Watch.
Review by Virtual_Jo
An engaging story about a family living in the ravaged remains of their once wealthy estate, plagued by a malicious presence. Is it real or not? A twist in the telling, more subtle than Waters' trademark plot corkscrews, but nevertheless chilling.
Review by MikeFinn
In this period piece, Sarah Waters provides a fascinating window on the demise of the English landed gentry at the end of World War 2. She creates a fundamentally ambiguous tale of gentry fallen on hard times who seem to be literally haunted by their past and entombed in the wealth-turned-to-debt of their isolated manor house. Yet this is more than an essay on class decay or even on the impact of the supernatural. Waters' has the rare ability to expose the small nuances emotion that drive our behaviour, some times almost against our own will. This novel reminds me of Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth" in its ability to chronicle the changes of mood and context that even a single evening can hold.
Review by isabelx
Review by eleanor_eader
Hundreds Hall is dilapidated, a crumbling echo of its own grand past. When Dr. Faraday is called back to this house, that holds for him a childhood memory, he is appalled and even compelled by its decline. But there is another enemy, more insidious even than time, overshadowing the family struggle to keep Hundreds maintained, and as Dr. Faraday becomes more closely entwined with the family, he becomes our narrator to increasingly terrible events.As a comparable example of gothic mystery, it’s unfortunate that Waters doesn’t have Susan Hill’s sublime gift of crafting tension through description, nor Shirley Jackson’s effortless use of every histrionic hue in the ‘gothic’ spectrum; Waters’ strengths are strong, sympathetic characterisation and an excellent handle of the threads of mystery, never pulling too hard on any, and letting the reader truly wonder what was going on at Hundreds; I far prefer books that keep the reader thinking than mysteries that are tidied up mundanely, and Waters lets us bounce between theories – hysteria, haunting, bad energy, bad luck, madness – without skipping a beat in the story’s understated but steady pace.Best of all is the involvement of the Dr. Faraday, the growing realisation that while he might not be an unreliable narrator in the usual sense, he is almost wilfully oblivious of the danger surrounding the family, and even his own motivations; his acquisitive pull towards Caroline and, by extension, Hundreds, for example, that reaches back to his seemingly innocent childhood vandalism, and his inability to let it go in the end give the reader another intriguing thread. Is Dr. Faraday another victim of the hall, or an instigator, or just a foil for Caroline’s sometimes manipulative neediness? All the tension in <i>The Little Stranger</i> comes from the way the characters are caught on their own helplessness, their refusal to confront, or even withdraw from, the things that are happening to and around them.Absolutely readable, but suffering slightly from comparison to more chillingly presented ‘haunted house’ tales, I can’t say that this is perfect storytelling, but both my interest and my emotion were provoked (I am a sucker, if nothing else, for tragic animal storylines… poor old Gyp!) and I do enjoy Waters' easy writing style. I also liked the unexpected imagery in the title; I expected, of course, that the ‘little stranger’ was the long-dead first daughter of Mrs. Ayres; the idea that it might be a small, seemingly insignificant germ of bad energy or paranormal phenomenon – or hysteria – that had grown, unchecked, was an unusual one.
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