Linda's Reviews > The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
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's review
Aug 22, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: paranormal, hist-fic
Read from August 10 to 20, 2010

The Little Stranger is a deliciously creepy tale in which the star is a house, a grand but decrepit country estate in Warwickshire, England. The year is 1947, and in the aftermath of WWII, all of the English, rich and poor alike, are suffering through what today we like to call tough economic times. The story begins with a house call made by Dr. Faraday to Hundreds, the seat of the Ayres family for 200 years. The doctor, now middle aged, has misty memories of visiting Hundreds as a child with his mother, former nanny to the Ayres children, now all grown up and struggling desperately to hang on to their heritage. They befriend Faraday, to as close an extent as is possible between the upper and lower classes.

Little by little, strange little incidents are noticed, such as sooty smudges and childish graffiti appearing on the walls. Rod Ayres, the heir to the estate, begins to experience frightening, seemingly paranormal visions. Tapping, whistling, and whispering sounds are noted by the family, and Mrs. Ayres feels certain that her long dead little daughter is trying to communicate with her. The family turns to Faraday for help, but he is a modern man of science, and refuses to fall prey to the fanciful fears of the Ayreses. Along the way, he inexplicably falls in love with Caroline, Rod's sister.

Author Waters artfully beguiles her readers into entering a sort of gothic puzzle, where things may or may not be what they seem. How much of a role does the psychology of the family, now destitute after centuries of comfort, play in the manifestations that plague them? How much of a role does it play in the choices made by Dr. Faraday, who desperately wants to make his mark in the world, and rise above his family origins? The final paragraph in this fable is devastating, and I'm still not sure how to answer those questions, nor have I made up my mind about the "little stranger" who plays the malevolent tricks. But I do know that The Little Stranger is a hauntingly good story.
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Gwen Haaland So glad that you appreciated this one as much as I did Linda!

Heidi *spoilers ahead* My husband and I came to the conclusion that "the little stranger" was Dr. Farraday himself, who had been obsessed since childhood with the house, and that he "fell in love" with Caroline because of his obsession with the house (she accuses him of this herself.) But I don't think he suspected this of himself until the very end when he looks in the mirror -- it was all from his subconscious, which made it all the more deliciously creepy. What do you think?

Linda I think it's one of the possibilities, certainly. But I
also suspect Caroline herself.

Gwen Haaland Wow Linda, I had not thought of that possibility!

Heidi, your conclusion was a popular one in our discussion group.

Heidi If Caroline had done it, what did you think her motivation would have been?

Linda To get away. But yesterday, I listened to a podcast of an interview of Sarah Waters, and she's pretty clear that she meant it to be Faraday.

Heidi Thanks for the link! I look forward to listening to it.

Gwen Haaland Same here Linda. Thanks.

Linda Very welcome. It's a great interview!

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