Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters


I am SO long over due for some of these book reviews, so I figured I better start getting them posted. So I'm just going to go with the oldest books and work my way forward. Sadly, what that means is that these reviews probably are not going to be the best :/ They aren't as fresh in my mind as they should be. My review process usually works as read, close cover, open up mac, type review. That just hasn't been happening these days.

But The Little Stranger was SO good that I just couldn't let it go unreviewed. It's one that I had to tell you all all about. I actually decided to listen to the Penguin Audio production of this book read by Simon Vance, and that only added to the experience even more. Simon Vance has this wonderful British accent that added to this gothic, period piece that made it feel like Downton Abbey meets classic Shirley Jackson to me.

The Little Stranger is a story where the house is a main character and those types of stories are always among my favorites. I love a good gothic tale where there's a house that is full of atmosphere and often seems to have a life of it's own and Ms. Waters has done a wonderful job of creating that here. It's the story of a family living in a home that's beyond their means in the turn of the 20th century but doing everything they can to maintain the property and themselves as well.

But we slowly start to see not only the disentegration of the great house that they live in, but the disentegration of the family living in it as well. And it starts to become clear that it's the house, or whatever spirits the house holds that are causing the downfall of the family.

The family is an elderly mother and her son, a young man who has returned from the war with an injury, and her daughter. But our narrator is a local doctor who has come to the home again after living there as a servant as a child to treat the young man's leg injury and slowly learning that he has some interest in the daughter as well. Our narrator, being a man of science, also serves as a voice of reason for the things that are seemingly unexplainable. But as things progress, things become harder and harder to explain.

My only prior experience with Sarah Waters was her novel, Fingersmith. And while I didn't love this novel quite as much as I did Fingersmith, I did still quite enjoy it and it had the perfect amount of gothic atmosphere for this time of year. There was never anything in it that was grotesque or shocking, but rather this novel gave you a general sense of being unsettled with a slow crescendo of things continuing to just. go. wrong. And as I said before, the audio just made it even better. I love having stories like this read TO me. Oh what a wonderful story this was.

13 comments:

christina said...

This was my first (and presently, only) Waters book. I'm happy to say I loved it. A good spooky house story = yay!

DesLily said...

I felt the same that it wasn't as good as Fingersmith, but it was enjoyable. I really need to try "listening" to a book one of these days!

Debi said...

I will read Sarah Waters one day. I will. I really will. (And it shouldn't even be that hard as I have five of her books on my shelves already. :P )

Daphne said...

My assessment was the same -- it was great, milder than Fingersmith, but realy good. Very atmospheric.

Fence said...

I found it a book that improved after discussion :) Especially the ending, and differing ideas on what was going on all the time.

Susan said...

It's sitting on my shelf, and I really want to read it! I have so many books to read right now....darn it, you make me want to run to it right now! lol Lovely review, Chris. I like that gothic spooky atmosphere where it's unsettling.

Jenny said...

I am DYING for Sarah Waters to write another book. It's been years! Years and years! (Well, years and year, I suppose The Little Stranger published in 2009ish?)

claire said...

This was my first Sarah Waters book and I LOVED it. I'm glad there's Fingersmith and The Night Watch on the TBR, can't wait!

Beth F said...

I have this on my shelves ... guess I'd better track it down.

Bellezza said...

I so agree with you, Chris: what a story this was. I even reread it this autumn, as the first time I read it was last yer and now I can't see a "Halloween" without it. Wasn't the house the main character? I so agree! Now I need to try Fingersmith since you liked it so much.

Heather J. said...

I LOVED this book when I read it last year! I'm glad you picked it up and that you enjoyed it as well.

Carl V. said...

I'm soooo glad that Andi and Heather hosted the group read of this so that I had the motivation to finally read it. I liked the majority of the novel so much. It was slow building and that is one of its positives for me, though it was a distraction for others. It was only in the (I feel) rushed and ambiguous end that it went from being a perfect novel for me to merely being okay. I'm glad I read it and can see Waters' talent throughout, I just wish it had ended up being more special to me.

Orisi said...

I've added this to my 'to read' list... A list hitting 40 books now lol. Thanks for sharing.