2010: 57. The Little Stranger

“I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old.”

The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters

     I’ve read a few books by Waters: Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith, and this one is a little different.  It’s not about lesbians, for one.  In fact, it has a male protagonist, Dr. Faraday, who has raised himself from the lower middle class to a position in society as a professional.  In fact, as he becomes friendly with the local gentry, he becomes particularly close to the family at Hundreds Hall, where his mother was once a housemaid.  And Hundreds Hall is where the action is set.  Once a beautiful Georgian home, it is now in decline, and the Ayers family is not only struggling to keep it up, but also to figure out their roles in the postwar society, as Britain is slowly moving into the future.  So that is where we start the novel, but it quickly becomes clear that there is more going on here than just postwar angst and social mobility issues.  Indeed, we find ourselves in a true gothic thriller.  Is the house haunted? Are its inhabitants mad?  Waters sets up a pitch perfect mood, and, as with the best books of this type leaves us, in the end, questioning all that’s gone before.

       And what did I think? Well, it’s funny, because this is a perfect book of its type, and its very well written, and if I don’t think its quite Booker prize worthy (it was a finalist), I think it’s a very good example of its genre.  BUT, I didn’t really like the unresolved nature of the ending.  I wanted to know WHAT was causing everything - not to have to be clever and piece it together on my own.  I think I wanted the book to be less literary and more either horror - or psychological fiction or whatever.  Which would, no doubt, have made it less of a book, but been a more satisfying read. 

        Or maybe, if I’m honest, I figured out the ending that seems right to me, but I don’t like it.  I’d rather (SPOILER) it have been the ghost of some murdered parlormaid, than have been caused by Faraday himself - either actually, or through some angry spirit he left behind.  It’s clear by the end that he is, in some way, responsible for what has happened, and I found that ending to be upsetting - especially as it all so vague.

Date/Place Completed:  August 2010; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017