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The Little Stranger

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  31,695 Ratings  ·  4,635 Reviews
"Several sleepless nights are guaranteed."—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly

One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handso
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Hardcover, 466 pages
Published April 30th 2009 by Riverhead Books
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Pk Chance The ending I got was very different.

To see it, you have to accept as plausible the explanation of the entity offered by Faraday's fellow doctor and…more
The ending I got was very different.

To see it, you have to accept as plausible the explanation of the entity offered by Faraday's fellow doctor and friend (whose name escapes me at the moment) of "some 'little stranger' spawned from the troubled unconscious of someone connected with the house itself". That sounds a lot like poltergeists, which (so the stories go) seem to feed off unquiet psyches in a home. Actually, due to the sorts of things it causes to happen, it *is* a poltergeist.

Anyway, if you can accept that, two things happen: the ghost is no delusion. It's real, and it's deadly. Secondly, the question becomes, who is the person with the troubled unconscious? That person is the conduit the ghost is working through.

SPOILER: In the final sentence, you have your answer: it's Dr. Faraday. He fancies himself an objective man of science, but his problems, prejudices and flaws are on full display. He claims to love this family, but the truth he hides even from himself, suggests otherwise. As Kim Wiles said, he "writes the incidents off as delusion." That doesn't mean they are. He's deluded, all right, just not in the way he thinks.

Then you go back and re-examine the story, and a whole lot of things are cast in a whole new light. Pretty horrifying, IMO.(less)
Kate Jones Don't do it. Just please don't. I'm an English Lit A Level student myself and we have been studying this novel for the past year, it is torture trying…moreDon't do it. Just please don't. I'm an English Lit A Level student myself and we have been studying this novel for the past year, it is torture trying to revise. Aside from the disparaging length of the text that is mostly irrelevant filler, the pace is unbearably slow and the overt use of commonplace gothic tropes (although admittedly give you something to write about) make it feel so forced and predictable that you want to gouge your eyes out rather than compare this to some of the great authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Henry James.(less)

Community Reviews

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Laura
May 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a traditional horror novel, you won't find it in
The Little Stranger. This book is not a variant on The Shining that just happens to be set in post-WWII Britain: it is essentially historical fiction that happens to have a touch of the supernatural about it. And as historical fiction it is excellent. Sarah Waters evokes the atmosphere not only of another time (1947) but, for Americans at least, another place as well because in many ways The Little Stranger is a very "Britis
...more
karen
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
sigh. i tried to read this slowly and still finished it in two days. i suck. but i can't help it - she writes so well, and her stories are so damn compelling; the pages virtually turn themselves. but sorry, ladies, no lesbians this time. i never thought i would see the day. what else is sarah waters for, if not lesbian love?? evidently, dickensian ghost stories in postwar settings... ooooorrrr iiiiisss iiiitttt?
Margaret
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
Departing from her preferred 19th century context, as she did in her last book The Night Watch, Sarah Waters sets her latest novel in post-World War II Warwickshire and tries her hand at an Old Dark House, Haunted-Or-Is-It story in the Jamesian tradition of subtle, ambiguous psychological chillers (The Turn of the Screw, The Beast In the Jungle. But while James intuitively understood that the atmosphere of such tales depends on sustaining the unsettling mood, and so they’re best realized – and i ...more
Jo
This review is going to be like one of those fridge poetry thingymabobs because I'm tired and coherency isn't a top priority of mine right now.
Here are some words and phrases that came to my mind after finishing this book, in no particular order.

Atmospheric | Subtle| DON'T LOOK THROUGH THE KEYHOLE! | Observations are almost clinical at points | Man, I need to read more of Sarah Waters' books | Passionate | Perfectly paced | Holy twisteroo, Batman | WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! | Don't go upstairs and i
...more
Pouting Always
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Faraday is called over to Hundreds Hall on summer day when someone on the estate falls ill. While there he strikes up a friendship with the family and in the coming months is pulled into their problems. Hundreds Hall is said to be haunted and as the months pass by it becomes more and more confusing to tell whether the effect of the house on the people living in it is due to it being haunted or the steady deterioration of the estate and the status of the people who inhabit it in a world chang ...more
Paul Bryant
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Any reader of Fingersmith will know how Sarah Waters drags the old tricks of ancient fiction out of retirement and makes them dance for us again. There it was Dickens and Wilkie Collins; here its Henry James and his Turn of the Screw, The Fall of the House of Usher, and any number of novels and movies with huge crumbling stately homes at their centre. Operating where the psychological and the supernatural ooze along together, The Little Stranger unhurriedly creeps the reader into its Gothic murd ...more
Candi
"I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district… I recall most vividly the house itself, which struck me as an absolute mansion. I remember its lovely ageing details: the worn red brick, the cockled window glass, the weathered sandstone edgings. They made it look blurred and slightly uncertain – like an ice, I thought, just beginning to melt in the sun."

What I liked mos
...more
Matt
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it
The one thing I’ve learned from reading my first two Sarah Waters novels (Tipping the Velvet and The Paying Guests) is the value of patience. She starts things slowly, building character and the environment with deliberate care and copious detail. Plot is secondary, and it can take awhile for the endgame to come into focus. With The Little Stranger, however, my patience nearly ran out.

The Little Stranger is a bit of a departure for Waters in that she plays things straight. Sexually, I mean. Her
...more
Diana
Oct 07, 2009 rated it liked it
I was quite torn about how to rate this book and went between 2 and 3 stars. I love most of Waters' books. I loved Tipping the Velvet and Affinity was a great ghost story, but this book was like her other book Night Watch-long, drawn-out and left me wondering what the point was. Faraday, the main character is not really likeable-but that being said, neither are any of the other characters. The book ends with no real wrapping up of any details-though you are left with this feeling that the author ...more
Arah-Lynda
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, i-said

An eerie,engrossing haunted house tale. The plot pulls you in and holds you firmly in it's grip. A deep,disturbing, gothic ghost story of the highest order. Subtle and poignant. I could not put it down!

Shovelmonkey1
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like horror-lite
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: thrift and a passing acquaintance with this authors other works
Unlike other goodreaders I seem to have come to this book with no great expectations. Sarah Waters is a writer whose books I have acquired in the past purely on the grounds that there are huge herds of them roaming charity shops and second hand book stores (a joy and peril of being a best seller I guess), and therefore they are easy to get hold of for next to no money. Sorry Sarah, I got all your books CHEAP! This one was £1 I think, which is good value when you think that equates to 0.001p per ...more
Char
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haunted-houses
3.5 stars!

I have to admit it, I was disappointed in this book. Yes, I gave it 3.5 stars, but I was expecting to give it 5. I know some of you out there know what I'm feeling.

I'm not going to get into the plot too much...there's a huge old estate falling into disrepair in post-war England. The estate is as much a character as the people, and I liked it more than some of them. There is the matter of the family that owns the house and the reduction of their status in society. There is the matter of
...more
Katie
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Video review will be up later today!
William
One of the more enjoyable aspects of Sarah Waters' slow paced (occasionally excruciatingly so) ghost novel, "The Little Stranger," is how subtle and contemplative its frights are, rather than being necessarily immediate or shocking. The ending is cleverly done – and softly done – so much so that to hint at it might ruin the question Waters finally poses; a frustrating notion since the slower tone and pace of the novel, combined with readers' preexisting expectations for what makes a good "ghost ...more
Amanda
I was too busy wanting this book to be something that it wasn't, that when I realized my frustration at the narrator was Water's intent and plot strategy, I couldn't get passed my disappointment to fully enjoy what she created.

I have read similar books, which I won't mention here for fear of ruining them with the comparison, but this too may have played into my reading/opinion/frustration at The Little Stranger.

I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this book, but if you want to read a sligh
...more
Misha  Mathew
I don't have to enunciate the sheer brilliance that is Sarah Waters. Those who have read her already know it. Those who haven't need to get acquainted with her books which, I believe, are among the greatest literary works. The Little Stranger is my second favourite Sarah Waters novel after Fingersmith. In this book, the author deviates a lot from her previous works. Yet, her ability to awe remains the same.

Now imagine a huge gothic mansion, a possibly haunted mansion.Then imagine something walk
...more
☙ percy ❧
between this and The Upstairs Room i think i've discovered that the very specific genre of "gothic/horror mystery in which this house may or may not be haunted because there's some strange psychological miasma hovering around" isn't precisely my thing
Mariel
Nov 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: The proletariat will wear corduroy, not melancholic expressions
Recommended to Mariel by: I could have flirted with her, though
Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger was an uncomfortable book to read. I really, really disliked the narrator, Faraday. I didn't want to be in his headspace at all. The kind of guy that would think a woman should be grateful he looked at her because her ankles were supposedly fat. It's dickiness like that, relentlessly. That was the whole point of this book, his views of what he's owed and placements in life, and taking everything he said at face value would rob the story of its true creepiness. I ...more
Tatiana
Sep 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: booker, 2010
As seen on The Readventurer

Looking back at The Little Stranger, I think I quite liked the novel as a whole, especially the ending that wrapped up the tale in a curious and deliciously ambiguous and enigmatic way.

This sort-of-ghost-story is an interesting portrayal of the downfall of an aristocratic family in post-war Britain and a deep exploration of what it means (psychologically) for such a family to witness a slow dilapidation of its once grand estate.

Sarah Waters's writing is elegant and h
...more
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Downton Abbey meets The Shining in a house worthy of Daphne du Maurier. A creepy, atmospheric, and puzzling ghost story. Or is it?
Nicola Mcfall
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was really great! I chose to read it after seeing it on the TV book club and I am really glad I did. It is one of the best written books I have read in a while and the story is clever and compelling. The characters are well developed and I can see why the TV book club chose this book because it opens up theories and themes that would be great to discuss.

The story is essentially a ghost story set at Hundreds hall following the story of the Ayres family as their home and society crumble
...more
Megan Baxter
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
A story of ghosts or madness?

If ghosts, ghost or poltergeist?

If the latter, caused by whom?

If madness, whose?

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Jen Knox
May 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
I read other reviews that praised the depth of the characters, but I never felt engaged enough to agree. The premise was good, the details were lovely, but the story itself didn't seem fully realized and I didn't miss the characters when I closed the book. A decent read.
Paul
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ghost-stories
This is classified as a ghost story, but as a ghost story it is very unconvincing and not really very chilling; no Whistle and I'll Come To You menace here. However this is actually a really good novel which captures the zeitgeist of post war Britain in the 1940s and Waters has done her research well. The real themes are class and the decline of the landed gentry, the rise of the welfare state and the NHS.
It is less Edgar Allan Poe more Josephine Tey; it reminded me of The Franchise Affair. The
...more
Pang
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: constant-reader
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark
All I can say is I think Erica Wagner must be a real wuss. On the jacket of this book she is quoted from her review in ' The Times ' as saying ' Waters is determined to scare the pants off her audience....you'll want to sleep with the lights on '....I so didn't. As a ghost story it ranks middling and apart from one or two moments it was fairly anodyne but as a story of loneliness and neediness and the disection of an unfulfilled and disappointed life it was excellent. The two main characters of ...more
Sarah
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
I don't really know how I feel about this book. What struck me was how much detail Waters put in to her descriptions of the house. At moments it almost felt like I was walking through the halls of the house, hearing the creaks and smelling the mustiness that had become of such a grand house. Judging the book by its cover and short description I expected a traditional ghost story, but it was far from that. It pinpoints the changes that occurred in English society following WWII. Truth be told the ...more
Pallavi Sharma
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
****4.0****

Story is set in an old mansion called "The Hundreds Hall" in Warwickshire, England in the 1940s. Dr.Faraday is asked to come to the Hundreds to see the maid Betty who is ill from two days. Soon the Doctor finds himself drawn to the family, Mrs.Ayres now widowed, her son Rodrick Ayres who himself is suffering from a smashed leg and partly disfigured face during his time in RAAF and Rodrick's sister Caroline Ayres, slightly eccentric and social. He recalls his previous visit to Hundreds
...more
H.A. Leuschel
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first book by this author and it certainly won't be the last.

The story is set in rural Warwickshire after the Second WW where Dr Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall, home to the Ayres family for over two centuries. The grand house is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens overgrown. The three remaining owners - mother, son and daughter - are all struggling to keep it going with an ever dwindling budget. As their friendship with the doctor deepens, it qu
...more
Blair
I don't know why I didn't write a review of this when I read it, presumably because I didn't have time - I'll have to rectify this at some point, but would have to read the book in full again in order to do it justice. I can say that I thought it was absolutely wonderful - an automatic addition to my all-time favourites list; I'd give it six stars if I could. It seems to have divided opinion amongst other readers, and I'd love to say I understand why, but actually I don't. In my eyes The Little ...more
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4,893 followers
Sarah Waters is a British novelist. She is best known for her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, as well the novels that followed, including Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch.

Waters attended university, earning degrees in English literature. Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching. Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel.
...more
More about Sarah Waters

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“And perhaps there is a limit to the grieving that the human heart can do. As when one adds salt to a tumbler of water, there comes a point where simply no more will be absorbed.” 520 likes
“I seem to have been cross, somehow, all the time when I was a girl. I was horrid... You're supposed to grow out of horridness, aren't you? I don't think I ever grew out of mine. Sometimes I think it's still inside me, like something nasty I swallowed that got stuck.” 6 likes
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