Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle New Album - Foo Fighters Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
1,023
4.0 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:£14.13+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 20 July 2016
Waters applies her superior skills as a period writer to great effect once again in this romance thriller. Set in 1920s postwar Britain, Frances Wray, at 26, is a confirmed spinster of the middle class, managing her reduced circumstances with her widowed mother, having also lost two brothers in the war. She rents out part of the house to a young clerk class couple, the Barbers, in a bid to keep her and her mother's finances afloat.

Waters gets the setting, mood, speech and social concerns, all down pat, and it is with a start when one remembers that this novel was published as recently as 2014. This is clearly a woman's novel, and I mean that in no disparaging sense, because the main focus is on the two women. The friendship between Frances and Lilian Barber soon blossoms into something a lot more intimate, even as she gets more involved in the Barber's lives, while having an ambivalent relationship with Lenny, Lilian's husband.

It is to Waters's credit that her nuanced writing makes the transition between romance to thriller midway through the novel, while surprising, nonetheless smooth and completely believable. However, the psychological suspense that surrounds Lilian and Frances does get a little repetitive and long drawn, even though it was a good way of getting under the skin of her two female leads.

Not a perfect novel, but the exemplary prose sets it apart from the rest of pack.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 September 2017
I first came across the wonderful Sarah Waters in her novel Fingersmith that I read in my pre-blogging days and remains on my bookshelves as one of my favourite books. Goodness knows why it took me so long to get around to another one of her novels, I've had them on my TBR for ages! However, when The Paying Guests was short-listed for the Baileys Women's Prize for fiction in 2015 and I had heard nothing but rave reviews for it, I knew it was time to pick it up. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I've come across a book for a long time that is so incredibly close to that five star, perfect read. The Paying Guests was a heady mixture of gorgeous writing, tantalising characters and a plot that shook me to my core with the unexpected nature of it all.

I'll just briefly describe what the book is about and I'll try to be as vague as possible as frustratingly, there's a lot about this novel that I simply can't tell you and I do very much hate spoilers in a review. It is the 1920's, post war in Britain and Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances have realised that times have changed. They have lost all the men in their family - three sons to the war (their deaths having a daily, ruinous effect on the household) and Frances' father who recently passed away and left the family in terrible debt. As a result, they are forced to take in lodgers or "paying guests" hence the title of the novel. The arrival of married couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber makes an enormous impact on both Frances and her mother and has dire consequences for the rest of their lives.

I simply can't say anymore than that, I really want you to discover it all for yourself. There are twists and turns in the narrative that I have to say, I did not see coming and was absolutely delighted to discover a story with so much convoluted detail, both in plot and with Sarah Waters' endlessly fascinating characters. Frances at first comes across incredibly prickly, bitter and difficult but as we get to know her better she becomes so intriguing and she still plays on my mind long after finishing the novel. Lilian too is beautifully drawn and just as captivating to read about, especially in the second half of the story where certain incidents precipitate a thrilling and tense situation where I had no idea how on earth Sarah Waters was going to wrap it up. The sheer allure of the writing, the atmosphere of post war London which the author captures to perfection, and these amazing characters means Sarah Waters is instantly pushed onto my list of favourite authors and I'll certainly be getting to another one of her novels as soon as I can.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 September 2017
Frances and her mother are struggling, a few years after the Great War, to maintain their house alone. Her brothers were killed in the war and her father died following disastrous investments, leaving them unable to maintain the house or keep servants. They advertise for lodgers, whose rent will enable them to pay their food bills, if not to improve the house. The young couple seem not to have an ideal marriage and Frances hears raised voices from time to time. She and the girl, Lilian, become close and out of their burgeoning relationship comes a disaster.

This book didn’t seem as long as I know it is. I zipped through it, fascinated. So many tiny details lit up the times – buying a box of nibs, for example. While by no means a between-the-wars child I still remember dippy nibs. The story was beautifully set in its time through little things like this. The disaster, which initially welds Frances and Lilian together, changes their lives and the balance of their relationship utterly. I loved the ending which left me still with the characters and the story in my mind. Sarah Waters doesn’t spoon-feed her readers. She tells such a good story.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 May 2016
A young couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber take lodgings with Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances. Frances is 26, an attractive young lady, but single and at first sight rather conservative. The Barbers on the other hand are very avant-garde. From the moment they pass each other on the landing, you can tell there is this palpable sexual tension, you just don't know whether it is between Frances and Leonard or perhaps Frances and Lilian.
Waters builds layer upon layer of this tension. She is a master weaver of those layers. The atmosphere becomes thick with yearning and longing, as the characters begin to shed inhibitions. Actions and decisions follow, actions that may destroy them.
An excellent book!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 April 2017
I really enjoyed this book. I bought it thinking it was a murder mystery and was disappointed, initially, when it turned into a lesbian romance. However, such was the quality of Waters' writing, I decided to plod on with it and this turned out to be a very good decision.

As the story unfolded I found it increasingly gripping to the extent that when sat at my desk at work I'd often find myself longing for 5pm so I could continue the story. The author's ability to paint a picture with words is extraordinary and effortlessly built tension and suspense and I was often quite nervous as I turned the pages. Every time there was a knock at the door my nerves would increase to such an extent that I'd wish that the door remained unanswered and the caller and their purpose unknown.

I had genuine sympathy for the characters and cared about them and also for the awful predicament in which Lilian and Francis found themselves.

The language, although formal, is quaint and in keeping with the era in which the novel is set.

I recommend highly.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 27 April 2015
The story is told solely from the point of view of Frances Wray, a woman in her twenties living with her mother in the aftermath of WW1. One of the joys of reading books by this author is the way she can bring to life a time and a place. I was totally involved with the Wray's genteel poverty and the fact that although Frances does all the work in the house, her mother still treats her as a dependent child. To ease the financial strain, Frances decides to let the upper floor of the house to a young married couple and the emotional and practical difficulties this brings are brilliantly portrayed.

People who've read other books by this author will be able to guess some of what happens. However, I was totally unprepared for the plot twists in the second half of the book. Sarah Waters' other great strength is the ability to write a cracking good story. Really, this is a book of two halves, but each of them is excellent and together they form an enthralling novel which I was sad to finish.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 23 February 2015
There are some very insightful reviews here and I couldn't add anything without divulging a big plot development, so I'll simply add my two penn'orth to the chorus of well-deserved praise. Waters is such a wonderful writer and we are lucky to have her. That said, I do find her novels exhausting to read - she pulls you in and that can become pretty stressful. But such empathy for her characters, and such exquisite prose ... An added bonus is the authenticity, for she really does her homework on any period she chooses to write about. An outstanding book.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 April 2017
Superb. Un-putdownable, if that's a word? would make a cracking film/mini series... Captured the elements and observations of the era and at times, awkward relationships, perfectly. Felt like I lived invisibly in that house with the characters..
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 December 2015
OK and quite well written. Very lesbian - almost a manual for lesbian sex. I found that the sex got in the way of what was quite an interesting story - albeit an updated version of Therese Raquin by Emile Zola with a twist.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 May 2017
Waters' novel encapsulates the depressing post-Great War years for those living with loss and an insufficient income.
When love comes in a socially unacceptable form for Frances Wray, more than the sexual conventions of the 1920s are broken, and death is followed by a moral dilemma whose real outcome remains uncertain right up until the last page. Quite compelling.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse


Need customer service? Click here