The Little Stranger is my first novel by Sarah Waters. It was published in 2009 and it is her sixth novel. I bought my book when I was in Glasgow last September in a Waterstones with the buy 1 get 1 half price offer. The Little Stranger was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2009.
My copy has 501 pages.
“One post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners-mother, son, and daughter-are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. 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 intimately entwined with his.”
As historical fiction, the novel is great. Waters shows us the final struggles, the death throes of the class system and especially those at the top. Mrs Ayres thinks the family is an example to every other person. To her, losing the estate means the end of a way of life, setting the whole family adrift.
This story of decay and the importance of social class is interesting to read. The family tries to hold on to the estate, and employ a servant even though most of the rooms are closed off, the wind blows freely in the house and they have to sell the land piece by piece.
I liked the novel on this level, reading about the time it is set in, about the family and their struggles, about the doctor who feels he belongs in no class whatsoever because of his parents. It's all very sad.
As a ghost story, the novel is slow and unconvincing. The ambiguous supernatural elements were a bit of a disappointment to me. I got the feeling Waters couldn’t keep up the tension, making the supernatural elements flat and unconvincing. As a result of that, the novel is too long, I think she could have cut 150 pages easily and it would improve the story.
The book is beautifully written and I read the first 200 pages in a day, but after that the pace was slackening and I became less interested. I expected some kind of twist in the last part of the novel but that didn't happen.
But again, Waters' writing is amazing.
I read good reviews about it and since it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize I had high hopes. Unfortunately Waters couldn’t deliver in my opinion.