Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger
by Sarah Waters
463 pages

*** About the Book ***

It is just a few years after the end of WWII in England and society is in a state of flux. The Ayres family, formerly part of the high society that has all but disappeared from the countryside, struggles to hang on to their ancestral home, Hundreds Hall. But the three family members each have their own issues to deal with, and with only two servants to assist them it is impossible to keep the house and grounds in good condition. Doctor Faraday, a man of the lower class who had to work hard to earn his position, is called to Hundreds to treat one of the servants and so begins his association with the Ayres family.

But Hundreds Hall is not the only thing falling apart; the family seems to be doing the same, each in his or her own way. Is it mental illness, affecting each family member suddenly, or is it, as one of the servants suspects, that there is a "bad thing" infecting the house?

*** Why I Read It ***

I've had this book on my TBR list since I saw it mentioned on The Book Page. When it was chosen at the book club book for the Jan. 12 edition of That's How I Blog, I figured now was the perfect time to read it. I was extra excited because I'd just enjoyed another Waters book, AFFINITY, and was looking forward to reading more by her.

*** My Thoughts ***

This is a GOOD BOOK! I'm really coming to appreciate Waters' writing style. Her descriptions are very evocative; I can see the details of a scene very clearly as she describes it. I don't think I've read anything set in this time period before but Waters seemed to really capture the era: the sense of change, the aftermath of war, the modern vs. the traditional, and all of that crammed together in the English countryside. In addition, she took the prevailing sense of societal upheaval and turned it into the backdrop for what is essentially a gothic tale. VERY cool.

The story kept me on edge, constantly wondering what was going to happen, how things were going to be resolved. Things happen that make you wonder about the characters sanity and about the existence of a ghost, but you are never sure what to think.

As I got close to the end of the book I was extremely anxious to find out "the truth" about everything so I ended up staying up until 1am to read the final pages. Imagine my shock when there was no "solution"! I guess I should have remembered that this book was compared to THE TURN OF THE SCREW, a story notorious for it's ambiguous ending. I'll admit that I was really frustrated with this at first, but only because I didn't expect it; the longer I gave it to "settle in" the better I adjusted. In the end I can say that I completely enjoyed every part of this book. YAY!

*** Your Thoughts ***

If you've read this one or plan to shortly, try to tune in to the That's How I Blog show on Jan. 12 at 8pm EST to discuss it - it will be the topic of the 20-Minute Book Club near the end of the show. If you can't join in live, you can always listen to the recording at a later date.

And here are some other reviews in case you'd like differing viewpoints:
So ... what say you? Is this a book you'd like to read? Why or why not? If you have read it, will you be joining in on the discussion on Jan. 12th? I'd love to know who else plans to participate!


Lisa said...

Good to know about the ending. Sometimes I feel like that's so appropriate but even knowing that it takes awhile to grasp the whole no answer thing.

Kat said...

I've been dying to read this book ever since I read an advance copy of the first chapter. Now I want to read it even more!

Kay said...

I've read about this book all over the place. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. I intend to put it in my virtual stack (I'll get it for my Kindle) soon.

Hope you have a very Happy New Year, Heather. I'm going to be starting to post again on my blog this year so stop by if you get a chance!

Michelle said...

I've got this book on my e-reader so that I can get some of it done for Booklady's that's How I Blog show in a week or so :)

lilly said...

You got me really excited about Sarah Waters! I do own a couple of her books (sadly not The Little Stranger) and have been putting them away but I think that 2010 will be the year to finally read her.

softdrink said...

I didn't know this was going to be discussed on That's How I blog...I'll have to try to remember to tune in that night!

bermudaonion said...

Ambiguous endings frustrate me. Sometimes I appreciate them more once I've pondered the book for a while, but usually I don't. Glad this worked for you.

Bibliolatrist said...

I just named TLS one of my favorite books of 2009. I didn't find the ending as ambiguous as you did, but I enjoyed the different levels of interpretation Waters offered. Glad you liked it :)

Literary Feline said...

I am looking forward to reading this one. Hopefully this next year. I am glad you enjoyed it so much, Heather. Thanks for the great review.

Heather J. said...

Lisa - The ending was the reason I put this on my TBR list originally, but I had completely forgotten that by the time I read it. LOL

Kat - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Kay - YAY! Kay's back!!! I'm still subscribed to your blog (I think) so any new posts should just pop up ... I hope. So glad you'll be around this year. :)

Michelle - Great! I'm really looking forward to that chat.

Lilly - Ooh, yes, do make 2010 the year of Sarah Waters!

softdrink - Perfect - more people to chat with!

bermudaonion - I usually feel the same, hence my initial frustration, but sometimes it works for me.

Bibliolatrist - I think it was only b/c I was EXPECTING a solid "truth" at the end that I was so frustrated. But I'd love to know what YOU think happened in the end - email me your theory if you get a chance!

Literary Feline - I'm sure you'll love it! Have a wonderful new year. :)

Teresa said...

This was one of my favorites of 2009. Like Bibliolatrist, I didn't find the ending particularly ambiguous, at least as far as the source of the goings on. What exactly was happening is less clear. My coblogger and I did some speculating in our review at

Heather J. said...

Teresa - Thank you so much for that link - your discussion of the ending was EXACTLY what I was hoping to read somewhere. I'm adding your link to my post now. Happy New Year!

Ti said...

I've never read anything by Waters. I added this one to my list around Halloween in an attempt to do some themed reading but I never did get a copy of it.

Oh, and Happy 2010!

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

You know how I felt about this one!

Heather J. said...

Ti - Happy new year to you as well! You should definitely get to this book this year - I think you'd enjoy it.

Jen - Why yes, yes I do! Looking forward to discussing it with you on 1/12.

Kailana said...

I am reading this book right now. It is pretty good so far. :)

Rebecca Reid said...

I'm very interested with the Turn of the Screw comparison

Heather J. said...

Kailana - Will you be calling in to THIB next week?

Rebecca - You'd probably enjoy this one. The writing is GORGEOUS - very gothic, very evocative - and the story is quite good. Waters is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

Meghan said...

I loved this one! I'm so glad you enjoyed it too. January 12th is my birthday so I'm pretty sure I won't be listening in, but I am going to listen to the show afterwards!

Heather J. said...

Meghan - Happy early birthday! Sorry you have to miss the discussion (I'm sure it will be a good one!) but birthdays are definitely more important. :)

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