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The Little Stranger [Hardcover]

Sarah Waters
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (355 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 (355 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 191,738 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
454 of 471 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
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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7 of 7 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
Format:Paperback
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters 2 July 2009
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The reviews for this book in the media, weren't too favourable, but I bought it having read "Affinity" - my favourite Waters book. Don't get me wrong, it took a while for me to get into the book, but once I did - I was completely hooked. I think it very brave of Waters to explore psychological/mental health of the Ayres family; especially in a 1940s setting - when mental illness was hardly discussed.

There is a real twist at the finale, that really took me by surprise and also left me a little disappointed. I don't think it's one of Waters strongest books, but it is still a good read.

I did not think I would like this book, but I would highly recommend it to anyone!
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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. But our narrator is not reliable, his obsession with the house and family are extreme and as I said above the last lines are significatn in identifying 'the little stranger'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Truly mixed feelings
I find this novel frustrating-I found it difficult to get into at the beginning; but somehow, despite not being able to say I was enjoying the story, I found myself completely... Read more
Published 1 day ago by S.P.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written!
This is one of those books I am always drawn back to. I was recommended it by my a friend as it is her favourite book- and boy was I not disappointed. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Arabella
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read.
A wonderful read.
Published 16 days ago by J.McCaughey
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
enjoyable holiday read - but much preferred other books of hers.
Published 22 days ago by Gill Nichol
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Excellent book well written
Published 29 days ago by L. Murphy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good
Published 1 month ago by Jill
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good
Published 1 month ago by j g hames
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good but not my favourite Sarah Waters novel
Published 1 month ago by Shirley Harrington
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather repetitive
This was ok. I found the book repetitive and was bored at times. on occasions it was difficult to understand the laboured text. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Suzi 29
2.0 out of 5 stars Long and empty
If you like period pieces that outline the class issues then you may enjoy this. It is well written however having not read a Sarah Waters novel before (also unsure if this is... Read more
Published 3 months ago by M. Wusche
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