Janet's Reviews > The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
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Aug 02, 2011

really liked it

In 1919 when Doctor Faraday is ten years old, he attends a fête in the grounds of Hundreds Hall, a large Georgian house in Warwickshire. His mother was a nursery maid there and still knows some of the staff, so she takes her son into the kitchen to visit them. One of the parlour maids takes him upstairs with her whilst on an errand and he picks off a plaster acorn with a penknife because he is so attracted to it, but his mother is horrified when she finds it later and puts it on the fire.

Later that year, the Ayres’s beloved daughter Susan dies of Diphtheria and so the following year, the fête takes place elsewhere as the family withdraw themselves from public.

Some thirty years later, Dr Faraday is called to the house to attend to a young servant and strikes up a sort of uneasy friendship with Mrs Ayres and her children, Roderick and Caroline, who are struggling to survive as the house falls into a state of decay due to the family’s money problems.

One day tragedy strikes at a party, setting off a chain of events that lead to Roderick having a breakdown, as all sorts of paranormal activities seem to be happening. Dr Faraday tries to write them off as coincidence, but it really does seem that there is some kind of evil spirit at work at the hall.

A colleague suggests that it could be some kind of ‘subliminal consciousness’ - that a persons dreamlike consciousness could have detached itself and that others might be able to see it - but Faraday is not convinced. But these strange, disturbing events continue until they eventually lead to a chilling conclusion.

I don’t usually read ghost stories. I thought the writing in this was very subtle and also incredibly atmospheric and the last sentence made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. One of our book-club members doesn’t ‘do’ scary very well - I can imagine that she found it quite hard to read this book at bedtime and then switch the light off!
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