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Book: The Little Stranger

May 28, 2010

Oh, I love Sarah Waters. Love, love, love her. I think this is the fourth book I’ve read by her and of course it was wonderful.

Also: dark, slightly scary, a bit disturbing, thought-provoking, mysterious.

Set in the 1940s just outside of London, a village doctor is called in to treat the maid of a certain upperclass family in a certain beautiful old house in the country. His mother, when he was a child, used to work at the house, and he had fond memories of visiting the estate. Sadly, after the war, England’s upper classes began to suffer poverties, and the house had fallen into disrepair. Still, the family — a mother, daughter, son and their maid — lived in the house and soldiered on with the classic stiff upper lip.

All is jolly and good until a series of mysterious and unexplained happenings occur. A missing pair of cufflinks. A dog bite. Small sounds in the walls. Whisperings in the pipes. And then worse things. A fire. A suicide. Madness. Murder?

A classic gothic ghost story set in near-modern times, this book kept me reading at all hours of the night. Never stepping over the line into horror, just simply keeping me near (if not on) the edge of my seat with prickling dread. The characters were that curious mix of sympathetic while still being somewhat unlikeable. I was never entirely sympathetic to any character because they each had a definite dark streak, whether it was somewhat hidden or not.

Near the end, you realize that the book is actually almost a whodunit — although maybe it’s not. Is it a ghost story? Perhaps. It is a psychological thriller? Probably. Will it make you ponder your own dark side? Definitely.

This was particularly interesting to read after just having finished that book on paranormal research and telepathy. What exactly is a poltergeist? Why would a spirit remain in a place? And why was this family seemingly marked for tragedy?

This was my book club book and although it was a bit too long and only two of us finished the book, the consensus was that it was of course excellently written, but a few people felt it was too moody for them — not to say that it wasn’t good, just that it was a bit dark. It’s been unseasonably dark and rainy here and I think many people are starting to feel a bit strained and perhaps a sunnier book would have suited them better. However, everyone thought it was good, and I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of The Ghost Writer. But I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. Ya’ll know that by now.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lua permalink
    May 29, 2010 5:14 am

    I’ve never read anything by Sarah Waters, but I love stories that are “dark, slightly scary, a bit disturbing, thought-provoking, mysterious” so I think I’ll be adding this to my ‘to be read’ list 🙂 Thanks for the great review.

  2. May 29, 2010 5:28 am

    That sounds really interesting… not a genre I’ve ever read, but from your description, I think I’d enjoy it.

  3. May 30, 2010 7:24 pm

    Interesting review! I’m intrigued…

    I’ve never read any of her books. I’m always looking for good reads.

    Thanks for stopping by the other day and commenting. I love meeting new Blog Land peeps.

    Oh, and I love your banner…so pretty.

  4. May 31, 2010 12:04 pm

    as soon as i get a library card (can you beliee i havent done it yet?!?) im going to search for her books. im still on the lookout for fingersmith but could never find it in gainesville.

  5. May 31, 2010 12:13 pm

    Sarah Waters is great — she’s not really a specifc “genre” but she is a great writer, usually with subtle twists and turns that create a distinct mood and tension. She is a great period writer. Love her!
    Tammie: I know you will love her writing! Fingersmith was fantastic.

  6. June 13, 2010 2:09 pm

    Daph, I LOVED this book, and you know I don’t even like Sarah Waters. This book kept me awake reading, and the night I finished it I ended up lying in bed thinking about it.

  7. October 21, 2010 7:35 am

    I love a moody ghost story and this was one of the best. That feeling of dread is pretty much how I felt whenever I put it down to go to bed. I loved this book!

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