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The Paying Guests Hardcover – 28 Aug 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 949 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (28 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349004366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349004365
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 4.7 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (949 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Absolutely brilliant (Jacqueline Wilson Sunday Times)

A page-turning melodrama and a fascinating portrait of London on the verge of great change (Guardian)

Waters's page-turning prose conceals great subtlety. Acutely sensitive to social nuance, she keeps us constantly alert . . . From a novelist who has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, this is a winner (Intelligent Life (The Economist))

The novel's remarkable depth of field - from its class-ridden background to its individuals' peccadilloes - is sharply portrayed by an author writing at her best. Waters's 20-20 vision perceives the interior world of her characters with rare acuity in a prose style so smooth it pours down the page in a book to be prized (Scotland on Sunday)

A sumptuously subdued story of making do and getting by after the great war (Philip Hensher Guardian)

Brilliantly involving . . . juicy, beautifully observed [and] not afraid to be explicit (Metro)

A triumph (Woman & Home)

You will be hooked within a page . . . At her greatest, Waters transcends genre: the delusions in Affinity (1999), the vulnerability in Fingersmith (2002), the undercurrents of social injustice and the unexplained that underlie all her work, take her, in my view, well beyond the capabilities of her more seriously regarded Booker-winning peers. But The Paying Guests is the apotheosis of her talent; at least for now. I have tried and failed to find a single negative thing to say about it. Her next will probably be even better. Until then, read it, Flaubert, Zola, and weep (Charlotte Mendelson Financial Times)

A masterpiece of social unease . . . It isn't so much the plot that makes you read on - the novel's armature is a comparatively uncomplicated suspense narrative but barnacled to it is an astonishing accretion of detail . . . A virtuoso feet of storytelling (Jane Shilling Evening Standard)

She give(s) us a poignant love story which symbolically sees in the death of the old order, the death of the old fashioned husband and maybe the birth of an era of love without secrets (Independent)

Waters is brilliant (The Times)

A nod towards Little Dorrit also seems perceptible in the book's quiet ending amid the bustle and clamour of London. Unillusioned but tentatively hopeful, it is a beautifully gauged conclusion to a novel of ambitious reach and triumphant accomplishment (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)

The Paying Guests demonstrates the writerly qualities for which Waters is esteemed, proving as 'fantastically moody and resonant', in terms of the rendering of domestic space, as a novel the author herself described as such and which she once said she would like to have written: Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (Literary Review)

Sarah Waters is, quite simply, one of our greatest writers (Joanna Briscoe Sunday Express)

Another wild ride of a novel . . . [I was] helplessly pulled along by the magnetic storytelling (Tracy Chevalier Observer)

Sumptuous . . . The writing is impeccable. A joy in every respect (Lionel Shriver New Statesman)

An uninterruptable joy of a novel . . . Sarah Waters at her tip-top best (Juliet Nicolson Evening Standard)

The Paying Guests is so evocative and compelling that all the time I was reading, I had a feeling it was me who had done something terrible, instead of her characters (Rachel Joyce Observer)

Fiction book of the year

This novel magnificently confirms [Sarah Waters's] status as an unsurpassed fictional recorder of vanished eras and hidden lives

(Sunday Times)

The Paying Guests reminded me just how clever it is to create characters that captivate through their adventures in a world so well-realised that you can almost reach out and touch it (Zoe Strachan Sunday Herald)

I raced through it, breathing fast and when I had finished had to reread parts of the wonderful early chapters. I don't like historical novels but this is the exception. I shall let a few months go by and then read it all over again with, I'm sure, undiminished pleasure (Ruth Rendall Guardian)

Super-gripping . . . There is a huge momentum to this story (William Leith Evening Standard)

Sickeningly tense - and thumpingly good (Daily Mail)

Waters is an author to cherish (Guardian)

You know you are in the hands of a skilful, confident writer when you read a Sarah Waters book. She slowly reels you in. She weaves plots and themes that creep up and entangle you while you are innocently following her characters. They go about their shadowy business and by the time you raise your head from the page to take a breath, you're hooked (Viv Albertine Telegraph)

Masterly . . . delightful . . . tremendously vivid . . . Waters is a cracking storyteller (Tatler)

One of our best novelists . . . sooner or later, she's going to be given the Booker (Matt Thorne Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

The extraordinary bestselling author, who wrote three astonishing Victorian novels before moving to the 1940s with The Night Watch and The Little Stranger, now turns to the 1920s.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Aspen TOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's no two ways about it. Sarah Waters delivers. She's an accomplished and deft storyteller and is skilled at taking her reader right into the heart of the story. Each book has a specific and well defined setting. I was initially drawn to her work by 'Fingersmith'; shades of Hogarth and Dickens cleverly woven into a convincing and compelling tale. Her Booker nominations are well deserved. Her writing is lively, her characters, plot and period are evocative. So I was keen to read her latest offering which considers a completely different period, post WWI London.

In The Paying Guests, the reader is immediately drawn in to the 1922 London setting. It's an era of faded elegance; Frances and her mother have fallen upon hard times. Father made some unwise investments, leaving his wife and daughter impoverished and the sons/ brothers died in the First World War. There are no servants, no men in the household and from the opening pages, the discomfort and sense of duty is almost palpable. To make ends meet, following the reluctant sale of household items, they are forced to take in the PGs of the title. The class division is immediately apparent. There's a new social order. Frances and her mother are no longer protected by class barriers and they're faced with the challenges of sharing both their lives and home with Lil and Len. They're 'clerk class'; a little coarse, but aspirational. Frances appears tight and constrained physically, mentally and emotionally. There's a sense of sadness and loss. In contrast, Lil personifies the new Flapper age with her shingle haircut and desire to embrace freedom, informality and a different lifestyle. Her husband Len is a cheeky chappy, confident and sensuous and full of innuendo.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This isn't a bad novel by any stretch of the imagination, only perhaps we fundamentally aren't suited and therefore only hit it off slightly. Waters' is a wordsmith and her strength is her beautifully crafted images of the mundane, miniscule or the everyday. i found the visual landscape and action in this book incredibly vivid and believable, which made the book enjoyable. My issue is the length of the suspense coded into this story arc. After the key event, there's a very very long way to go before you reach the book's conclusion. It's like seeing a runaway train coming towards you, but from a really, really, REALLY long way a way. You kind of know what's going to happen, it feels inevitable, but you're going to have to wait a long time and the suspense just keeps on, and on, until you're pretty much exhausted and frankly your interest peaked a while back thanks very much.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well, I feel somewhat wrung out like an old dishcloth after finishing this book.

I'm in two minds slightly (several minds in fact) about it. Did I love it? Did I even like it? Did I just spend several torturous days pouring over the pages only to be punched in the solar plexus by the last few chapters? Was the ending perfect? Were the characters still likeable when all was said and done? Desperate and clinging, and often crazed with calamity as they were. Did I in fact grow to feel for them, hope for them, plan for them, only for them to let me down?

All of the above and more besides.

I can't fault the book on its wordiness, its atmosphere and depth. That's what you get with this author. I felt slightly oppressed by it in Affinity, it worked perfectly in Tipping the Velvet, and I especially cherished it in Fingersmith. This book drew me in the same, brought the characters to life, and had me reading until my eyes were raw in the hopes I could finish it, sit back and feel that everything, after all, would end up ok. Or some semblance of ok that I could live with at least.

I could live with this. It's not picture perfect. It's not all tied up in a neat bow and done with once you finish. I want to know what happens next. I need to know the rest of it, but that's not to say I wasn't satisfied with the ending; it just felt like I'd been drug there through so many bramble bushes and puddles of wet cement that I craved something more. Having said that, I felt the journey was worth it - though I do think that part 3 went on a little bit too long, with its aching need to keep me reading until I could barely stand the twisted anguish these two main characters found themselves in. It got a little maddening, but then I suppose that was the point.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sarah Water's long awaited new novel doesn't disappoint at all. This is a brilliantly written and very evocative story that in spite of being rich with domestic, geographical and socio-political detail, never becomes mired down in this and remains an utterly compelling story. Sarah Waters is a writer of great skill and this is one of her finest works.
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Absolutely loved it! I have read all Sarah Waters' novels and I think this is one of the best - I love how she takes you right into whatever era she is writing about - in this case the years just after the Great War and you can so easily feel what it must have been like then for her characters. The story starts off quite slowly but by the end I couldn't put it down and was completely absorbed in the plot. Utterly fabulous - reading books like this makes me feel really cheery because there is wonderful stuff out there to be read.
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