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14 January 2011

Book Review - The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
This is a tale told by the author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, both of which were published as dramas on the TV sometime ago. The Little Stranger couldn't be any more different in terms of theme, pace and it has to be said, sex. The title really intrigued me and continued to do so throughout the book - more of which later. 

The Little Stranger, which is essentially a gothic, ghostly story, is set just after the Second World War. It takes place in Warwickshire, in the decaying country spoils of an upper class family. Hundreds House in fact, could be a character all in its own right, Waters managed to create a place which was so atmospheric that if I closed my eye I could believe I was there, watching the story as it unfolds. 
The main character is Dr Faraday and the theme evolves around his developing relationship with the Ayres family, Hundreds House and its' other 'inhabitant'. Dr Faraday narrates the tale in the first person, which is not an easy task, however, Waters pulls it off admirably and not once did I feel that is was choppy or inconsistent. It flowed well albeit if a little slowly, a criticism I have seen in other reviews. But for me, some stories are meant to be savoured slowly, rather like sucking a toffee until it's small enough to swallow. There is a sense of satisfaction as the delicate flavours are released, bit by bit, until they fill your taste buds, tempting yet just enough. I liked the pace of this book, it suited the unfolding mystery of the fears, misunderstandings and the secrets of a family seen from the outside as rather eccentric and behind the times. The Little Stranger shows the struggles that a nation suffered post war, how it touched not just those with nothing, it affected those who had everything - or so it seemed. 
My only criticism is that the ending is purported to be 'a revelation' by pundits on the cover. For me it wasn't and that was a little disappointing but I would suggest that you make your own mind up as many would disagree. 

Overall a good read with a hint of sinister, enough to make you look behind you every now and again and maybe startle at the odd, unexpected noise. 

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