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The Little Stranger [Hardcover]

Sarah Waters
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (346 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 May 2009

After her award-winning trilogy of Victorian novels, Sarah Waters turned to the 1940s and wrote THE NIGHT WATCH, a tender and tragic novel set against the backdrop of wartime Britain. Shortlisted for both the Orange and the Man Booker, it went straight to number one in the bestseller chart.

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at 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, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. 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.

Prepare yourself. From this wonderful writer who continues to astonish us, now comes a chilling ghost story.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; First Edition edition (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844086011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844086016
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (346 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966 and lives in London. Author of Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith and The Night Watch, her most recent book is The Little Stranger. All of her books have attracted prizes: she won a Betty Trask Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and was twice shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Fingersmith and The Night Watch were both shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes, and Fingersmith won the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger Award for Historical Crime Fiction and the South Bank Show Award for Literature. Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith have all been adapted for television.

The Little Stranger was a bestselling hardback and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Product Description


It's a gripping story, with beguiling characters . . . As well as being a supernatural tale, it is a meditation on the nature of the British and class, and how things are rarely what they seem. Chilling (Kate Mosse, The Times, Summer Read)

Waters writes with a firm, confident hand, deftly building an atmosphere that begins in a still, hot summer and gradually darkens and tightens until we are as gripped by the escalating horror as the Ayres are. (Tracy Chevalier, Observer)

By now readers must be confident of her mastery of storytelling . . . While at one turn, the novel looks to be a ghost story, the next it is a psychological drama . . . But it is also a brilliantly observed story, verging on the comedy, about Britain on the cusp of modern age . . . The writing is subtle and poised (Joy lo Dico, Independent on Sunday)

Displaying her remarkable flair for period evocation, Waters recreates backwater Britain just after the Second World War with atmospheric immediacy . . . Acute and absorbing (Peter Kemp, Sunday Times)


`A gripping story, with beguiling characters . . . As well as being a supernatural tale, it is a meditation on the nature of the British and class, and how things are rarely what they seem. Chilling' Kate Mosse, The Times, Summer Read

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
450 of 467 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of the House of Ayres 6 Jun 2009
By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
To be honest I have always had a bit of a soft spot for ghost stories but even allowing for a certain bias regarding the subject matter this is without doubt a blindingly good novel. On the surface it is all so deceptively simple. A country doctor, approaching a dreary and unloved middle age, finds himself paying regular visits to the local stately pile where he encounters the once grand but now rather moth-eaten Ayres family. Soon afterwards strange and seemingly supernatural events begin to take place: the formerly placid family dog attacks a small child; strange marks appear on the walls; bells ring for no apparent reason; doors occasionally seem to lock themselves and sinister scribbles inexplicably turn up on doors and windowsills. Dr Faraday seeks, and believes he finds, a rational explanation for the strange events but the Ayres are altogether less sure.

What makes this apparently rather simple set-up so compelling is the skill with which Waters applies layer after gentle, rustling layer of doubt, paranoia and unease. Dr Faraday is, for example, a far from perfect narrator. Unimaginative, class-conscious and painfully aware that he doesn't have the 'right accent' to fit in with the grand Ayres he finds himself alternating between cloying resentment towards the family one minute and fawning servility the next. In turn the Ayres have fallen on financially ruinous times and the - from their perspective - frankly unpleasant plebian classes are literally encroaching on Ayres territory in the form of council houses being built on land skirting Hundreds Hall. Working class on the way up collides with landed gentry on the way down. The whole situation is a portrait in minature of post-war England preparing to tear itself apart.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, but... 18 Sep 2012
By R. C. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Previous reviews have explained the plot and context.

It is beautifully written, but no bundle of laughs for sure. The story line went from tragedy to miserable tragedy without a single lighter note to complement the gloom. I didn't exactly feel like slashing my wrists before the end, but then my aptitude for self preservation is pretty well refined.

However, the ambience is quite perfect and you can almost believe that this was actually written during early post war Britain.

The characters themselves are very believable, and creep under your skin. There is Dr Faraday, a balding middle aged doctor, uncertain of his status in a socially changing society. The bright but plain and frumpish daughter, Caroline. The mother, in fear of the changes infiltrating the family way of life, and stoically facing impending ruin. You could almost feel the white of their knuckles as they cling on to tradition. A nice touch was the evening party where many came in evening dress but the lounge suits also arrived. A real metaphor for the changing social scene.

The growing relationship between the hesitant working class doctor and landed gentry Caroline is handled with fine delicacy, like watching a flower bloom.

The supernatural element began well, with just enough doubt to make you wonder if it is imagined or if something else was going on? Though the theme seemed to lose its way as the tale progressed, and eventually became simply bumps in the night. Despite that, it remained distinctly creepy.

So, why at the end did I feel rather depressed and disappointed? I accept that real life drama rarely answers all questions or provides for a nice neat ending. But I had anticipated a final proverbial rabbit out of the hat, as in Sarah Walter's book Affinity. Something that would tie up the story ends sufficiently to satisfy. But it never happened. Pity.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
After reading "The Night Watch", which I didn't enjoy and had to give up on, I wasn't expecting a lot from this novel. But it truly is a work of art.

It follows the downfall of a once wealthy and well to-do family just after the Second World War, and the decline of the once magnificent house they live in. I love novels where the sense of place is so alive as it is in this one. The house, Hundreds Hall, is almost its own entity and I loved the sense that the place had just as much of a story as the people living in it.

The book didn't terrify me like it did some other readers, but I don't think the supernatural element of the story should define it. It is a winding staircase and it is haunting simply in the way you look at it.

It grates on me how some reviewers have said "nothing much happens and you don't find out who the ghost or supernatural influence is" because, with all due respect to others' opinions, they must either be blind or simply expecting something obvious to be spelled out to them, which is not what the book is about. There are many clues and avenues to go down with regard to what exactly is going on at Hundreds, one of which I would contend is nearly spelled out in the last few words of the book, as well as a few hints earlier on. I don't want to spoil it or define the way in which your mind will choose to look at it, because that's half the brilliance of "The Little Stranger". Suffice to say that if you let it, this novel will speak to you in many different ways.

Despite feeling that it could have been edited down a touch, I wholeheartedly agree with the reviewer who said: "I finished it a few days ago and it hasn't settled quietly into its grave. It rustles and creaks; it casts shadows where shadows really shouldn't be and it refuses to tie itself up into a neat little bundle of comfortable conclusions."
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Depressing not scary
Rarely do I feel the need to be completely negative about a story, there is usually something positive to talk about even if the content is uncomfortable. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Celeste
3.0 out of 5 stars Shadow-self
Set in 1940s England, "The Little Stranger" has all the ingredients of a classic gothic novel - a crumbling mansion, Hundreds Hall, belonging to the fallen aristocratic family the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Ang
3.0 out of 5 stars Queer House
Having just completed some Sophie Hannah pyrotechnics, Sarah Waters, in contrast, seems rather slow, flat and subdued. Read more
Published 3 months ago by pierre
4.0 out of 5 stars Brill product, confusing story
The product was brilliant condition and well worth buying if you're a fan of sarah waters but i didn't like the story, found it very disappointing at the end
Published 3 months ago by Clare
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
This is a fantastic read, it leaves just enough to the imagination without leaving you completely in the dark, beautifully written and really difficult to put down, as I write this... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Aj Marston
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine atmosphere
A very creepy ghost story. Nobody does immediate post-war Britain like Waters. The detailing is not just impeccable - it has a point: the doctor creeping around the winter... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Absorbed & Distracted
5.0 out of 5 stars The Little Stranger
This was a fantastic book. Well-written, atmospheric, chilling, creepy. I got completely sucked into the story and stayed up late into the night to finish it. Read more
Published 5 months ago by H Berryhill
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing read.
Having read and enjoyed other novels by Walters, I was rather disappointed in this. No matter how skilled the writing, the idea that an old house is pervaded by some malign spirit... Read more
Published 5 months ago by T. R. Cattell
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery book
I enjoyed this book, bit slow in places, but kept you intrigued right to the last page, would recommend for a book club, so you can discuss how other people interpreted the end.
Published 5 months ago by Jr
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but got bored
This is a good book written by an extremely skilled writer however I got bored of it half way through and have been unable to finish it - but this is not due to it being a bad book... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Copernicus
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