Pang's Reviews > The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
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Mar 27, 11

bookshelves: constant-reader
Read from May 19 to June 02, 2010

** spoiler alert ** I was really hoping to like this book more, but I was left a little unsatisfied and disappointed.

The book told a story of a country doctor, Dr Faraday, who became involved in affairs of an old English family, the Ayres. Faraday had known the family since he was a boy through his mother who used to work for the family. The house, Hundreds Hall, had made a strong impression with Faraday even as a young boy. His feelings were rekindled when he was given the opportunity to visit the Hall as a doctor answering a house call. After a while, series of strange incidents started happening in the house with its members--the mother, Mrs Ayres, the son, Roderick, and the daughter, Caroline. Roderick was the first to have strange events happening to. He was later committed to a mental institution after unexplainable fires broke out in his bedroom. A while later Mrs Ayres began to show strange behaviors. She said that she could feel the presence of her dead daughter, Susan, and that she had been hurt physically by her. She ended up hanging herself, though it was unclear how it could had happened considering she was heavily sedated. Caroline was the last of the family members. She was found dead on the floor of the house and was presumed to have committed suicide by leaping from the second floor, even though she had never exhibited any troubled signs.

At the center of it all stood Dr Faraday. He was the narrator of the story, but was a biased observer. He insisted that all the strange events could not be supernatural, but were explainable with scientific reasonings. Faraday concluded that everyone was suffering from some degree of mental illnesses, even though there were times when he was conflicted and thought that supernatural phenomenon was possible. He went seeking advice from another colleague, Dr Seeley, on what was happening at the Hall. Seeley planted ideas in Faraday's head that strange force might be possible:
'Is that so surprising, with things for that family so bleak? The subliminal mind has many dark, unhappy corners, after all. Imagine something loosening itself from one of those corners. Let's call it a--a germ. And lets say conditions prove right for that germ to develop--to grow, like a child in the womb. What would this little stranger grow into? A sort of shadow-self, perhaps: a Caliban, a Mr Hyde. A creature motivated by all the nasty impulses and hangers the conscious mind had hoped to keep hidden away: things like envy, and malice, and frustration...

This statement turned out to be very significant to the story. At the end, when things were falling apart at the seam for Faraday and Caroline, she called him out that he was the one who wanted to save Hundreds and that was his only goal. She said that he didn't really love her, but actually the house was what he loved. I think this is when the story really unfolded. Faraday was exposed as somewhat a fraud. After Caroline's death, I was left to wonder if Faraday was actually the "little stranger." The family members all experienced different things, but as Mrs Ayres put it: "the house knows all our weaknesses and is testing them." Different family members had different weakness. I think that was why Caroline was the least affected until the very end. At the inquest of Caroline's death, it was revealed by Betty that Caroline yelled out "You!" before she leapt to her death. That implied she saw someone she knew... Could that someone be Faraday? Nothing was happening to the family until Faraday's arrival. The author certainly left that for the reader to wonder.

The story was entertaining, and some of the passages were definitely spooky, but it also dragged on in some parts. The story also left a lot to the imagination. Unfortunately, something was lacking in the book for me.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Susan SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Well, read that last sentence again. What does Faraday see when he's in the house trying to find its "secret?" His own reflection. He is still too obtuse to get it, but we do. When he first came to the house as a child -- a "little stranger," as a matter of fact, what did he want to do? Slip across the barrier between his class and theirs, and take something, so that he could possess part of the house. What does he want when he comes back? The same. If anyone has a troubled, complex id that he himself fails to understand, it's Farraday.


Suzanne Taylor Yes, I so agree! Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but one becomes so wrapped up in the hysteria that he creates that you don't see it until the end, if at all.


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