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Group Book Discussion > (Aug/Sept) The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (SPOILERS!)

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message 1: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie For anyone that has finished the book, you can start chatting about it in its entirety! I will be joining you soon - I think I will have it finished by Tuesday or Wednesday. We'll see...I start teaching again on Tuesday, so who knows what life will be like?

I love the book so far! Can't wait to see how it ends!

message 2: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Motto | 450 comments I loved the eerie feeling and the suspense of this book but since I finished it a couple of weeks ago I can't stop thinking about the ending. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I won't say too much until others are finished but I'm interested to hear what others thought.

message 3: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 216 comments My copy just came in the mail from paperbackswap today! I'm so excited to start it. Anybody have any opinions on how it compares to her other books?

message 4: by Stephanie (last edited Aug 26, 2009 07:44AM) (new)

Stephanie This is the SPOILERS section, so consider yourself warned. I just finished the novel last night, and I think I would compare it to The Haunting of Hill House, The Turn of the Screw, Rebecca, and the movie The Others. The character development was outstanding, and I loved that I gradually disliked every single character in the book, particularly Dr. Faraday. He became increasingly pathetic as the end of the story neared, particularly after he was slighted by Caroline. I like that as the reader, we do not have any difinitive answers about what happened in the house, so I would love to hear opinions. Do you think Faraday only THOUGHT he loved Caroline b/c he also became consumed by the house? Was there really a spirit? If so, was it the spirit of Susan? Caroline's final word was "YOU." Who do you think she saw? Do you think her death was of her own accord or do you suspect foul play?

Oh, one other thing. Even though the book was set in the 1940s, I found myself constantly thinking that the setting seemed much more 19th century. Did anyone else have that feeling? Perhaps it was the language, perhaps it was the state of Hundreds Hall, perhaps it was the lifestyle of the Ayers family.

message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lbhick) | 986 comments What a wonderful psychological suspense! Sara Waters' words were evocative and drew me into Hundreds Hall and its history. Though the time period was set in the 1940's, when you entered the doors of Hundreds you were transported back in time over a century in its grander and more glorious days. The struggle of its past with the present haunted the house and it's owners. The obsolescent aristocracy, antiquated structures and the infringement of the modern world onto the grounds of the Hundreds estate brought down ruin to the family and the Hall. Breathing the dusty, moldy air of Hundreds seemed to infect the occupants with a pervasive sense of the past and the foreboding that this way of life was not going down without a fight. I loved this gothic tale!

message 6: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Motto | 450 comments I definitely disliked Dr. Faraday as the book went on. If he really loved Caroline, wouldn't he have wanted to get her and her mother away from the toxic atmosphere of Hundreds? Of course, not that either Caroline or her mother would have even considered leaving but but the doctor could have at least tried. I'm still pondering the ending. Throughtout the book I thought the house itself was the evil. Caroline saying "you" kind of put a shape to the evil that I didn't think was warranted. Keeping in mind that this book was meant to keep you off balance though, I'd have to say it did a great job. You definitely know you are in the company of a very good writer when you read Sarah Waters. I just started A Night Watch and can't wait to get further into it.

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lbhick) | 986 comments Caroline thought the house played off of everyone's weaknesses. I think Faraday's weakness was his inferiority complex. Although he was a doctor, he wasn't born into a wealthy family. He seemed to think he was never quite up to par with other physicians and those born into a higher social class. Hundred's represented to him his inferior social class, since his mother worked there, and also his dream. If he could be part of Hundreds, then he would belong to a higher social order. I think he was so caught up in the spell of the house, he convinced himself he loved Caroline, when in fact he loved the Hall more. He acted like he cared for her, but it became twisted when push came to shove.

At the end, when Caroline says," You!", part of me thinks "you" is Faraday. She had talked about energy and spirits being able to leave their body and appear elsewhere and Faraday had the sense he was in Hundred's before he fell asleep in the field. I think all the emotion he bottled up on what was suppose to be their wedding day, escaped and was drawn to the house. The house was like a magnet for negative energy. I believe he didn't physically push her over the railing, but the force of his negative energy propelled her over the rail.

I love how the emotion and energy of the characters feed the haunting of Hundreds and each other. The isolation, disrepair and neglect of the Hall also feed into the despair and agitation of the characters. The mind games are boggling.

message 8: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Motto | 450 comments Wow, you really have a gift for literary analysis. I find myself nodding in agreement the whole time I'm reading your post. I'm envious.

message 9: by Simone (new)

Simone James (simonestjames) This book left me with so many questions! This isn't necessarily a criticism because it really kept me thinking about the book. I too thought "You!" must be Dr. Faraday. Who else could it have been? It could not have been the little girl, as she died before Caroline was born and Caroline would not know what she looked like.

My favorite scene was definitely the scene in the nursery - it was so creepy I had to put the book down as I was reading at night. Why did the mother hang herself? Did she want to "be with" her daughter?

And why did Rod go mad? He talked about an "infection" that he failed to protect everyone from. And why did the haunting first start on the night of the party? I thought the scene with the little girl getting bitten by the dog was very unsettling.

Again, as I say I know this is not the type of book where everything is supposed to be explained and tied up at the end. It's supposed to leave you wondering.

My only criticism is that there were a few parts in the middle that dragged a bit - specifically the scene where Dr Faraday takes Caroline to the dance. I thought that whole scene could have been cut and the story would have been just as gripping.

Terrific book. And what an incredibly talented writer she is.

message 10: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lbhick) | 986 comments Simone, I've given a lot of thought to some of the same points that have left you wondering. First, the haunting started before the party, in small ways, so it wasn't really spoken of as a haunting until after the party. Dr. Faraday was initially brought to the house for the maid's "stomach problems," when she was actually frightened about hearing noises. Her weakness was being young and away from home, and naturally this left her being afraid in her new surroundings and manifested in strange house sounds.

Rod had papers unexplainably moved around his desk before the party. Rod was consumed with making things work at Hundreds and keeping them out of financial difficulties, so this seemed a natural manifestation of his fears. I imagine his pain from his injuries and his intense focus against what appeared to be insurmountable odds was steadily building and by the night of the party when the outside world was invited in to see the state of Hundreds it was coming to a head.

I thought it interesting too that it was a young child who was attacked by the dog, one the family thought shouldn't have been there to begin with. They had been thinking that before the attack. I think the house only had room for one little girl and that was Susan. Ever since Rod had been injured, his mother had been more confined to the house and with money problems to boot, she didn't socialize as often. Being more isolated in the house and aging, I think she spent more time reflecting on the past and her guilt over Susan's death. I believe all the fears and emotions of the individuals combined to reach a crescendo the night of the party. After that, the individuals gave voice to their fears, which before they had kept hidden from each other, and the haunting became more overt.

Caroline was described as being even-tempered. She never complained about the haunting. She heard noises and tried to search for an explanation, but she never let fear rule her. She researched books on poltergeists and tried to look logically at their situation. She did her duty to her family and the estate. I think the night at the dance was our first real glimpse of emotion in Caroline. She let loose on the dance floor, laughed, and had fun. Faraday also saw Caroline in a new light that night. Later, when she gave into her emotion with Faraday, she pulled back and bottled it back up. This happened when they got closer to Hundreds. Her weakness was she wanted to leave Hundreds again and live like she did before her brother's injury brought her back home. Because she was so good at keeping her emotions in check, I can't help but think the closer she got to ridding the house of it's possessions and leaving for good, she couldn't help but let those thoughts escape her. Unfortunately, the house was not going to let her escape.

message 11: by Betsy (new)

Betsy (ebburtis) | 1261 comments I just finished listening. Bravo Sarah Waters! I felt like Faraday didn't have an original thought in his head! He didn't start thinking romantically about Caroline until people started suggesting it to him (at least on a conscious level), starting with Sealey (my spellings may be off since I listened and didn't see how names were spelled). And such a typical man (no offense male members;-)), that he couldn't read every signal she was sending him that said I'm not interested!

I wasn't sure he was involved in Caroline's death, but totally expected him to hang for it. I couldn't believe, especially after his irrational interchange with the lawyer,that no one suspected him.

I had a conversation with my husband about this and I asked if he believed in ghosts. We both said that maybe not ghosts per se, but there are unexplained happenings. So if many of us believe that (I am assuming here), why do we always want to find a rational reason for why things happen? I found Sealey to be an interesting character - at once both the bumbling fool and the intuitive. Her character development was really fabulous. I'm looking forward to more of hers.

message 12: by Aylin (last edited Sep 21, 2009 07:52PM) (new)

Aylin | 16 comments I loved how by the end of the book the very same types of actions by Dr. Faraday that were seen as caring and helpful earlier now are seen as controlling and self serving. That was done so well.

message 13: by Kate (new)

Kate (kateksh) | 137 comments WOW! I finally finished last night. I'm not sure whether I would have remembered to mention that, yes, the entire book evoked the 19th century and not the 40s. Character development was masterful (althought I was a little surprised that Betty was only 16 in the end; she may have been portrayed throughout as unrealistically mature . . .)

I, too, have been wondering whether it's unfair to ask that everything have a rational basis or whether I am justifiably annoyed by the abrupt, unresolved conclusion. That we're to think it's Susan's ghost which haunts the house is unrealistic (might I say cheesy?). Might it have been Faraday himself? Is his ego The Little Stranger? That I'm lingering on that them is what I LOVED about this book . . . that constant "What is going ON here?" is still . . .GOING ON!

The fire scene, the hanging -- sooo suspenseful. I do wish the brother would have returned to be part of the end but, in that era, he would have just been locked away, I suppose.

I'm not sure that I disliked Faraday throughout. Isn't it just as reasonable that he was a decent man corrupted by the neuroses and shortcomings of a family admired by a young, jealous, insecure boy?

message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lbhick) | 986 comments Kate, I think Faraday was a good man at heart and started out with the best of intentions to help the family, mixed with a little curiosity about a house and family that represented something unattainable to him as a young boy. Eventually, the mystique of the house infected him and made him less likable.

It would be nice to have a definitive answer to what was going on, but I think the lingering questions and suppositions are what make this such a great psychological suspense! It continues to haunt me long after I finished reading it.

message 15: by Aylin (new)

Aylin | 16 comments I agree Faraday started out as a decent guy with good intentions- but somewhere along the way his motives started to change. I really interpreted the point at which that started to happen very differently after I had read the book. I liked Faraday through much of the book and didn't want to believe what was happening.

message 16: by Theresa (new)

Theresa (cocoanut1001) Simone wrote: "This book left me with so many questions! This isn't necessarily a criticism because it really kept me thinking about the book. I too thought "You!" must be Dr. Faraday. Who else could it have been..."

I agree that the book seemed to drag a little in the middle. It seemed like after Rod exited the house the story slowed down. But other than that, wow, what a story! I loved that the ending is left open to interpretation. I am definitely going to recommend this one to my book group.

Sorry to post so late but it took me a while to get the book and then it took me a while to read it. But anyways, on to the next book--eventually I hope to get caught up enough to comment on the current book with everyone else!

message 17: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lbhick) | 986 comments It's never too late to post. I can't wait to read more Waters. I have The Night Watch in my to read stack; that is after I finish The Angel's Game and Bridge of Sighs.

message 18: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Yes, to second Lisa, it is never too late to post. I am going to be reading Bridge of Sighs later than most, and I still haven't gotten my hands on Cutting for Stone yet. In time.

message 19: by LynnB (new)

LynnB This ghost story, set in the 1940's but Gothic sounding, had a good intent, but somewhere along the line it was overwhelmed by too much detail and side story. At times I would find myself truly enjoying it and at others, merely reading the words. The author was very good at developing character and setting, but these pluses somehow didn't create the book that I think it could have been.

message 20: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (littlemel64) | 45 comments LynnB wrote: "This ghost story, set in the 1940's but Gothic sounding, had a good intent, but somewhere along the line it was overwhelmed by too much detail and side story. At times I would find myself truly en..."

I agree with you, Lynn. I ended up not finishing the book because I kept getting bogged down by the description. I didn't find myself at all interested in where the story was going or what happened to the characters.

message 21: by Meera (new)

Meera I read this earlier this year and I also had mixed feelings about it. I did enjoy it overall though. More than the story itself and the characters, I liked the writing and the gothic mood of it. I would read another book by the author.

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