** spoiler alert **
Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at isolated Hundreds Hall, home to the Ayres family, a Georgian manor now crumbling and decaying. Its owners – mother, son and daughter – are bending over backwards to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own.
Soon enough, the doctor finds himself entangled in the tumultuous life of the family. Mysterious happenings inside the house befall each member of the family, sending them to a wretched state, digressing into mental instability. All along, the doctor as the narrator of the story, acts as the conscience of the reader, skeptical to ghost stories but wary of its probability. Faraday's voice is clear and rational yet empathetic. Through his eyes, the story flows naturally and all essential elements of a psycho-thriller-literary-drama mix were kept beautifully in balance.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hillary Mantel in her Guardian review aptly described this book as "a hymn to decay". Waters did a fascinating job peeling the layers of human psyche in dealing with the arduous mental and physical challenges of personal decline. Once of class, the old family finds itself struggling just to get by, and on the verge of being permanently defeated by, among others, mould and leaks in their once grand manor.
The supernatural was presented as a probable cause to the tragedies of the manor and Faraday was forced to find rational explanations. There was an interesting discussion around whether the "ghosts" were in fact manifestation of a supraliminal self, very much based on Myer's theory of the consciousness as proposed in his study "The Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death". He never really got to witness any of the strange happenings himself. And its brilliant of Water to let the doctor and the readers to decide in what to believe: whether the house was truly haunted by a wicked spirit or whether to attribute any of the strange occurrences to the mental state of its inhabitants.