Friday, July 24, 2009

Book Review:
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters (Fingersmith and The Night Watch) has built a reputation for writing literary gothic stories reminiscent of Henry James and Shirley Jackson. Her talents for creating realistic historical settings and unique characters come to fruition in her newest novel, The Little Stranger.
Post WW2, the Ayres family struggles to hold onto Hundreds Hall, a crumbling English great house that still retains a fading remnant of its glory. Mrs. Ayres clings to her past in an attempt to imagine that the aristocracy still holds power, even as massive social changes sweep postwar England. Her son, Roderick, terribly wounded and scarred from battle, exhausts himself working on the land to try to keep Hundreds solvent. Spinster daughter, Caroline, who is bright and bitter, tries to keep up some semblance of family. Into their Grey Gardens style lives appears Dr. Faraday, who as a young boy visited the great house during a village fĂȘte, and became enamored of Hundreds. The Ayres alternately welcome the distraction of the outsider Faraday and then remind him of his humble origins.
Each character is trapped by circumstance and by the house that holds deep secrets. Their lives are bound by a darkness they have yet to comprehend, and the unraveling of their pride, fears, and longings brews up a chilling storm of consequences.
The Little Stranger makes for compelling reading; in addition to featuring nuanced characters and psychological insight, it has a surprise ending that will change your interpretation of all the preceding events.

Reviewed by Inkwell Michelle