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The Little Stranger Hardcover – 28 May 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; First Edition edition (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844086011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844086016
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 22.4 x 4.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (403 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,891 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

Review

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)

Review

`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

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

470 of 487 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. Buzwell VINE VOICE on 6 Jun. 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ms. H. Webster on 13 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
The opening recalls Rebecca (Virago modern classics)'s opening 'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again' or Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder; novels which have great houses at their centre.

The narrator here is the local boy done good; he is a doctor but his mother was once a nursemaid at the great house. He is the outsider in a county family world, an emblem of societal change. He had first visited the house on Empire day and received a medal from the lady of the house - now post WWII he can be a guest and even a suitor for the daughter of the family. As a narrator he is somewhat plodding and in the hands of a less polished author the story could have faltered but Waters carries it off.

I was (of course) reminded of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories (Oxford World's Classics). It is never clear in that long short story whether everything is on the governess's head or whether there is a ghost. In this novel I thought that Waters made it quite clear gradually and the last lines are very significant.

Poltergeists are usually youngsters going through puberty and the two newcomers to the family when the odd events start to happen, and the house and family disintegrate, are the young maid and the doctor.
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