Unfinished Business: Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger

The book blog world seems to slow down during the holidays, many of you taking the full two weeks off work and off-line. Merry Holidays to you all! Unfortunately, my line of job doesn’t allow me to stop, so here I am, at work right until the end of the year. But the good thing with working while others are resting is extended lunch breaks without any urgent phone calls, so that I can sneak an internet break here and there.

I wanted to share today a word about a book I couldn’t finish, much to my surprise and sadness. I love Sarah Waters’ books. Or perhaps I should say I used to love her books. Or perhaps I should say I love her book Affinity, and ever since that experience I never quite could match this level of excitement. I liked The Night Watch well enough, but something was not quite right with me.

And then her latest book, The Little Stranger, universally loved and admired in the blog world. It should have been right up my alley: post-WW2 Britain, countryside gentry, class conflicts, Gothic horror, haunted house. Well, if you read this blog regularly you’d know that this last part is not exactly my stuff. I don’t do Gothic horror, although I love ghost stories (I don’t think I can really clarify this subtle distinction after over-eating so much christmas food, not to mention fine wines).

What is wrong with me? After turning and turning the question in my hands (because I took my time before deciding to stop reading, at about two-thirds of the book, although I skimmed the rest just to be sure), I decided that I’d taken it the wrong way: Dr. Faraday’s way, but without his infatuation into the aristocratic Ayres family and Hundreds Hall. I was being too Gallic: rational and plebeian.

I wasn’t enthralled by the derelict great house where Dr. Faraday’s mother had worked as a maid. I couldn’t get why he kept returning and returning to these people and this place. I didn’t find it creepy but just depressing. Worse, I wasn’t ready to give a chance to the supernatural interpretation of the events, and without this side of the plot, the social analysis of post-war Britain was still dazzling, but not enough to entertain me through long descriptions and slow pace. Besides, the reviews I’d read here and there had left me suspicions of one particular interpretation of the book, which further cancelled the magic of the plot for me.

Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of other readers. It didn’t work for me, but it has so many other qualities that I’m sure it will work for lots of other readers, and I’ll continue to read the next books Sarah Waters will get published.



2 thoughts on “Unfinished Business: Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger

  1. The blog world does get slow this time of year. Too bad The Little Stranger and you didn’t get along very well. It’s so disappointing when the first book you read by an author is amazing and then nothing afterwards can quite match it.

  2. I haven’t read any Sarah Waters (yet) but on the basis of this post I think I’d opt for Affinity rather than The Little Stranger. I’m glad to hear work is not too demanding at this time of year. Hope you get to fit in a few reads a long the way.

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