The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger

Book - 2009
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One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall, the residence of the Ayres family for more than two centuries. Its owners, mother, son and daughter, are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as conflicts of their own. But the Ayreses are haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2009.
Edition: 1st Riverhead trade pbk. ed.
ISBN: 9781594484469
Characteristics: 512 p. ; 21 cm.


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Jun 07, 2020

Sarah Waters is a fine storyteller and to read one of her books is always a treat. The Little Stranger is a horror story and at first it might seem to be a rather conventional one. Faraday becomes the doctor of the Ayre family, owner of an imposing manor, Hundreds Hall. The manor has always been part of Faraday's dreams and he slowly falls in love with Caroline Ayre. But things are not easy: the property is crumbling, the family have no money and live more or less as pauper, Rod - the son and heir - is a bad case of PTSD. Faraday's life becomes more and more involved with the family's life and, when complaints of supernatural occurrences start happening, he has a difficult task in convincing them that everything has a rational explanation. Without revealing too much, let's say that you have to wait literally for the last word of the last line of the novel to realize what has happened, although some suspicions arise in the second part of the story. The first half of the book is not really scary, although there are hints that "all is not well" but the rhythm becomes faster in the last chapters, when you really don't know what to expect and you are looking around yourself in fear. Well, enjoy on a dark stormy night!

PimaLib_ChristineR Mar 01, 2020

I actually picked this up after it was mentioned in The Starless Sea. There, the narrator mentioned several atmospheric books, including The Shadow of the Wind (which I loved) and this, The Little Stranger. No further urging was necessary. And while I did enjoy the book, I didn't find it atmospheric in the way The Shadow of the Wind, or even The Starless Sea, was. If I had to compare it to any writing it would be Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"-- less transporting than creepy and claustrophobic-- or maybe something by Tennessee Williams with an old moneyed family trying to survive in a decaying plantation home.

Waters gives us a Gothic horror, following the three Ayres: Mrs. Ayres who is the last of the old guard, now making the best of it with her two adult children and the memory of her first child; Roderick Ayres, the young RAF pilot dealing with the guilt of his navigator's death in WWII, while he survives burned and broken; and finally Caroline Ayres, the plain and awkward spinster called home to help with her brother. The three live in Hundreds Hall, a mouldering pile, remembered in its heyday by our narrator, Dr. Faraday.

Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid at the old mansion, remembers it in the last year of its glory, visiting as a small child. Now, he has returned as a village doctor, and finds himself wrapped up more and more tightly with the family. As the family physician he has to take the road of logic when it seems that one or more of the Ayres and their servants believe that something dark has taken up residence at the hall. While there are definitely ghostly elements, the horror of the book is in its brooding psychology. It is really only after you’ve finished that the niggling anxieties of the story come into focus. Beautifully written, The Little Stranger is a book ripe for discussion.

BookishBrooke Oct 17, 2019

The Little Stranger follows Dr. Faraday, a rural doctor in post World War II Warwickshire, England. After being called to Hundreds Hall (the estate of the Ayres family) to see to an ill servant, Dr. Faraday's life slowly becomes entwined with the family, and their home.

This book reads very much like a cozy historical mystery. There was nothing extraordinarily terrifying, but there is always a slow building sense of tension, like a slow simmer of dread and discomfort. Waters writes beautifully, with description that immerses you into the time period and the atmosphere of the house, making the house into a sinister character of it's own. The story is carefully crafted, in a way that comes across as natural and effortless, and addresses themes of the British class system and Science vs. the Paranormal.

If you enjoy well written historical fiction and are looking for a creepy, Gothic-like story, this may be the book for you.

Aug 17, 2019

Although I enjoyed the writing style, and I never thought about abandoning the read, I can't quite give it a higher recommendation. It's too long, and as I read through pages of details that could have been eliminated (sort of like most of Stephen King's books), I grew less interested in it. Afterwards I am not quite sure there is a satisfying "twist" in there, either. If you are looking for a more straight-forward tale of the supernatural you'll find one in Dorothy MacArdle's The Uninvited.

JCLCatherineG May 13, 2019

I love Gothic fiction but I can't say I liked this book. The story was too long and drawn out and the characters were a bit annoying. For a good ghost story, try any of Wendy Webb's books.

SnoIsleLib_LindseyA Nov 06, 2018

This book took me by surprise. Dr. Faraday is our narrator, but by the end of the book my opinion of him had changed completely.

I've read one other Sarah Waters book (Tipping the Velvet) and I recall being swept away by it, whereas it took me a while to settle into the world of Hundreds Hall and Faraday's voice. The Little Stranger didn't cause "several sleepless nights," as Stephen King attests on the cover blurb, but Waters truly knows how to set a mood through atmosphere. Hundreds is creepy in its deterioration, a reflection of its fading aristocratic family. If there is a "little stranger" within its walls, why is it so angry?

Many of the mysteries of Hundreds are left unsolved, and I find that even eerier than the alternative.

LPL_KimberlyL Oct 10, 2018

Gothic fiction novels are some of my absolute favorite to read, and this is, by far, one of the best. The eeriness of the entire situation slowly envelops the reader, so by the end you feel just as suffocated and paranoid as the characters within the book. This is a story Shirley Jackson would have loved and approved of - perfect for when the weather turns colder and the darkness of the evenings come earlier and earlier.

JCLChristiH May 03, 2018

I enjoyed this subtly spooky story, set in postwar England of the 1940's. Don't look for a jump in your face fright with this one; but, a beautifully descriptive story of the demise of a once great family in a huge crumbling estate with sneaky little suspected supernatural events that might be explained away by "the rational".

Aug 20, 2015

A strange story . I couldn't make up my mind whether the house was haunted or all the family were mentally ill. The ending seemed unfinished somehow. It took a long time to read.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 17, 2014

In post-WWII England, village physician Dr. Faraday is called to Hundreds Halls—a once grand estate that is now in decay and a financial burden on its once grand and no longer wealthy upper class owners. After this first visit, he slowly befriends the Ayres family and begins to witness a subtle malevolent force in the house that seems intent on destroying its occupants. This eerie novel is both a literary ghost story and a fascinating look at postwar Britain at the brink of social change.

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PimaLib_ChristineR Mar 01, 2020

"Caroline looked at her for a moment, struck by the lines of age and sadness in her face, and suddenly seeing her—as, when we are young, we are now and then shocked to see our parents—as an individual, a person of impulses and experiences of which she herself knew nothing, and with a past, with a sorrow in it, which she could not penetrate."

PimaLib_ChristineR Mar 01, 2020

"'Do you remember what I told you about this house, when I showed you round it? It’s greedy. It gobbles up all our time and energy. It’ll gobble up yours, if you let it.’"

PimaLib_ChristineR Mar 01, 2020

"I looked from mother to daughter to son and finally caught the likenesses between them, not just the similarities of feature—the long limbs, the high-set eyes—but the almost clannish little tricks of gesture and speech. And I felt a flicker of impatience with them—the faintest stirring of a dark dislike—and my pleasure in the lovely room was slightly spoiled."


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Feb 08, 2011

Dr. Faraday becomes family doctor to the Ayres family, a mother and 2 children in their 20's. Doctor's mother was a servant in Hundreds Hall for a short time. Son was wounded in WWII. Daughter is rather spinsterish. They have one full time and one part time servant. House is deteriorated and they continue to sell off land to live off the money. Servant tells dr. there is a "presence" of evil in the house (the little stranger), soon the son believes this as there are strange happenings mostly revolving around him. Mother comes to believe the presence is her long dead young daughter who died in childhood.


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