Sarah Waters is known primarily for her erotic Victorian era fiction, however, she takes a detour in her latest (well, latest being 2009) offering. Waters employs the classic first person narrative in the form of Dr Faraday – the ever so sensible and stiff upper lipped family doctor – and this lures the reader into a sense of trust and comfort whilst they get ready to “listen” to the story.
Set in 1947, two years after the war has ended, and a time in which the country was in the midst of economic recovery and social reform, The Little Strangers tells the tale of a grand house that was once the epicenter of social royalty in the early 1900’s. Throughout the years, the house and indeed the owners, have crumbled into financial despair. Without giving too much away, let’s just say things aren’t necessarily what they seem at Hundreds Hall.
As mentioned previously, Waters is known and celebrated for her Victorian era erotic fiction. As shown in this novel, Waters has proved she is not just a one trick pony; the characters are what drive this novel, and Waters is exceptional at bringing them to life. A great percentage of the novel is devoted to build up, and making the reader care for the characters. It takes a bit of getting used to as readers are used to instant gratification in most of today’s novels. Waters has stylized her writing and pace to match those of Henry James, Wilkie Collins and Emily Bronte. Through this choice in style, it allows the reader to better imagine the world of 1947. In fact, Waters is so accurate, that I believe this is the first book that I’ve read, since Enid Blyton, that doesn’t have any swearing, violence, or sex. It is a good old fashioned ghost story, told in a way that will feel authentic, and yet ageless.
At over 500 pages in length, this is not a quick Halloween night read. This novel is to be savoured and devoured. The Little Stranger is an intelligent, scary, atmospheric, and slow (in a good way) read. Well worth the read if you are looking for something different this Halloween! Just try not to scream too loudly if you hear a floorboard creak!
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