Book Review: The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters

Riverhead Trade

528 pages

Dr Faraday is a youngish man living in England in the 1940s.  He is a product of the working class but quickly becomes involved with Ayres family, who are members of the upper echelons of society. During Faraday’s youth, the Ayres’ mansion, Hundreds Hall, had been swathed in lush opulence, but by this time WWII had just ended and Hundreds had fallen into disrepair.  The Ayres family now only consisted of Mrs Ayres and her adult children Roderick and Caroline.  Their money is gone and they are struggling to keep Hundreds livable.  Gone are the days of numerous servants and swanky parties.

Roderick is the head of the family, as the only man, and the pressure is quickly enveloping him.  This, coupled with the significant injuries he sustained during the war quickly overcome him.  Faraday is initially in the home constantly because he becomes Roderick’s primary physician.  Unfortunately, Roderick’s issues become significant enough that he has to be sent away from Hundreds.  His absence does not cause Faraday’s visits to cease, and his relationship with the two Ayres women continues to grow.

Hundreds is a big part of the story.  It sets the Gothic mood and becomes almost like a character in the book.  The focus of the book is often on Hundreds and the effect it has on the occupants living there.  Is it haunted?  Is there a presence in the house?  The descriptions of the home and its facade are so in depth and picturesque that it makes up a large part of The Little Stranger.

Waters is one of my favorite authors.  I think she weaves together such great story lines that are believable and atmospheric. I was a tad bit skeptical before even starting this book because I had only read Waters’ books that are set in Victorian London.  The time period of the 1940s had me a bit concerned that this book wouldn’t have the same sense of atmosphere that I love in her other books.  But I don’t even think that was my problem.

I didn’t love this book.  It was good.  I am glad I read it.  But I just didn’t enjoy it in the way I enjoyed her other books.  I know I am in the minority on this one, but I just felt bored.  The strong plot was definitely not there.  Waters’s books tend to be fairly long, hovering at about 500+ pages.  That hadn’t been a problem for me previously, but it was this time.  Because the plot wasn’t fast paced, I think the book as a whole could have benefited from editing.  A lot of it.

There were so many moments of this book that I enjoyed, but those sections were overshadowed by the long periods where nothing was happening.  I think that for those readers who are more appreciative of a well written story that is bigger on description than actual story, this will be a better fit for you.  Not to mention that I seem to be the only one who wasn’t head over heels for this book.  It has been overwhelmingly popular.

Other Reviews:

Caribous Mom

The Book Lady’s Blog

Shelf Love

Regular Ruminations

Capricious Reader

You GOTTA Read This!

Farm Lane Book Blog

Presenting Lenore

A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook

We Be Reading

I purchased this book from a local book store.

This book counts towards the RIP challenge.

20 Responses

  1. I’ve been seeing a lot of mixed reviews on this particular book — I haven’t read any Sarah Waters yet, though,so I’m probably going to start another one of her other novels first.

  2. I’ve read quite a few reviews that aren’t so positive with this one. I think I’ll push it off the list for now. There are just so many other wonderful books to get too.

  3. I haven’t read any Sarah Waters (gasp! I know), but I really want to given how much people love her. I think I might read Tipping the Velvet first as it was her first book… also, it’s the one that I actually own! 😉

  4. Long sections with nothing going on sounds pretty boring to me- I don’t blame you for not being crazy about it. And there’s no shame in being in the minority when it comes to books! 🙂

  5. You are not alone! While I still loved her writing, and her ability to bring a time period to life, I didn’t connect with the spookiness in this one. At all.

  6. Thanks! for sharing.

  7. I wasn’t a big fan of this one either. It was OK, but wasn’t in the same league as Fingersmith. I agree that this one felt overly long – the plot lost a lot of momentum in the middle. Such a shame as I think it could have been very good.

  8. I liked this one, although Dr. Faraday was a creep, and I didn’t think Caroline was particularly likable. So, you do like her Victorian books? Because I haven’t read those. I agree with you about the pace. Here’s my review:

  9. I see the name Dr Faraday and the only thing I can think of is LOST.

  10. I don’t think you’re in the minority. Nearly every review I’ve seen of this one feels about the same way. It’s rare for me to see a glowing review of it…

  11. Definitely not on your own I liked this book but didn’t love it. There were some great creeoy moments but on the whole the story was long and slow.

  12. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one, so I don’t think you’re alone on not loving it. I really liked it personally, but I would agree that it wasn’t quite there with her other books, especially in retrospect.

  13. An author I need to try. I’m glad you enjoyed this even if you didn’t love it.

  14. I definitely think if an author writes well then inanimate objects (such as houses) CAN become like characters!

    I’ve actually heard very lukewarm things about this one, so I don’t think you’re alone. I’ve only read Fingersmith but have Affinity on my shelf to read. Sorry this one let you down a bit.

  15. So I own this one and will certainly read it. But I’m actually glad to know that I’ll be able to build up to even better Waters books. I hate when I read a book, absolutely love it, scoop up other books by the author and am then disappointed not to love them as much.

  16. I sort of skimmed your review just because I’m still about half way through the book. I’m loving it but I can certainly understand what you mean about long periods of nothing much. I was actually expecting a bit more “action” given that it’s a ghost story but it is working for me so that’s ok. I’ll have to come back once I’ve finished reading which may still take me a while yet! 🙂

  17. […] others actually but it’s getting late and I’ve got to get back to my book. Nymeth and Stephanie just reviewed it and I can’t wait to find out what happens […]

  18. I have only read Fingersmith and am looking forward to reading another by this author. Maybe not *this* book, but I will read more by her someday. Happy RIP!

  19. I never read this author, thanks for sharing.

  20. You’re definitely not alone … after finishing this last night, this is very much a “meh” book for me. Absolutely agree with you that this was way too long and needed some editing.

    I was starting to feel in the minority too! 🙂

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