Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Little Stranger
By Sarah Waters.
Who can resist a ghost story? And who could resist a Man Booker Prize short-listed ghost story? Not me, that's for sure. This book was also an opportunity for me to try a new author, as I hadn't read any of Sarah Water's novels before.
Dr Faraday is called to Hundreds Hall, a once vibrant family home to generations of the Ayers family, but now a crumbling post war yoke for its owners' necks. The three remaining members of the family are virtually destitute and struggling to deal with the changes in society brought about by war and modernisation. The son, Rod, has been badly injured in the war, and seems to be fighting a losing battle with his demons. Mrs Ayers is aged and trying to maintain a shred of their former lifestyle. The daughter, Caroline, is practical and pragmatic, but plain, so has been overlooked by suitors. Dr Faraday recalls visiting the house as a youngster, his mother worked as a nanny for the family. It pains him to see the declining state of the house as well as its inhabitants.
As a series of unfortunate events, and then dramatic changes in the health of the family occurs, they are all left wondering if the house is hiding something more sinister than rot, damp and decay.
The Little Stranger is a long and unrushed kind of a book, that slowly builds up tension and momentum. It is full of fabulous detail and beautiful description of not only the people, but also Hundreds Hall, which comes to life almost as a character in its own right with the wonderful descriptions of its dilapidation. I enjoyed this book immensely and found it a satisfying read. I'll certainly be looking out for more of Sarah Water's novels.