by Sarah Waters
*** 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:
- Medieval Bookworm
- books i done read - I completely agree with everything she says!
- Fizzy Thoughts - it wasn't her favorite Waters book
- You've GOTTA read this!
- S. Krishna's Books
- an unusual take by Tor Books
- Shelf Love - I completely agree with their discussion of the ending!