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The Little Stranger

3 Ratings: 1.7
A book by Sarah Waters

Starred Review. Waters (The Night Watch) reflects on the collapse of the British class system after WWII in a stunning haunted house tale whose ghosts are as horrifying as any in Shirley Jackson'sThe Haunting of Hill House. Doctor Faraday, a lonely … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri, Fiction, Ghost Story, Booker Prize, Sarah Waters
Author: Sarah Waters
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
1 review about The Little Stranger

A Hauntingly Good Tale

  • Jul 2, 2010

The Little Stranger is a creepy atmospheric novel that was a finalist for The Booker Prize in 2009.  This is one of the best novels I have read in some time, and even though I figured out the “mystery” before I got to the end of the book, the closing pages were still chilling.

This novel introduces us to Dr. Faraday, who grew up in the quaint English countryside and as an adult returns to reside as a somewhat successful doctor.  As a young boy his mother was a nurse maid at Hundred’s Hall, a mansion of the rich Ayres family.  As a young teenager he became enamored of the mansion but eventually left for school.
Years later he is suddenly called to the house to treat the family’s young maid and is immediately taken aback by the decline of the house and the family’s fortunes.   The Ayres family has fallen on extremely hard times financially and emotionally after World War II and are struggling to keep the huge house afloat, mostly without success.  The decline of the family’s fortunes mirrors that of Hundred’s Hall. 

The remnants of the family include Mrs. Ayres who is an aging woman clinging desperately to the past and her daughter Caroline who is a capable but somewhat plain, unmarried 27 year old who seems resigned to her fate as an old maid in the declining house.  Then you have Mrs. Ayres’ son Roderick, who has a severe leg injury from the war but is trying to keep the family estates and fortune afloat, but appears to be in way over his head.  The decline of the house and this insular, eccentric family are stark and inexorable.

Dr. Faraday quickly ingratiates himself with the family and finds himself a frequent visitor to the mansion.  And he finds himself again enamored of it, despite it’s failing and decrepit shape.  Then strange things begin to happen. Roderick starts having visions and begins to sink into what appears to be insanity as he starts having severe headaches and sees a malevolent spirit.   The docile family dog Gyp attacks a small child visiting with her family, ripping her face up.   Strange markings are found in Roderick’s room and other parts of the house.  Mrs. Ayres sees visions of her other, more beloved daughter who died at a young age.  Strange fires break out.  Is there really something haunting the house?  Dr. Faraday, who has fallen in love with Caroline and wants to marry her, doesn’t think so.  But strange things continue to happen, until the very end.

This novel is extremely well written and has great depth and well explored characters.  While the novel starts out slowly as it builds up the atmosphere the reader will inhabit, the payoff is a very intricate and somewhat oppressive story about the decline and fall of what is left of the Ayres family, their homestead, Hundred’s Hall, and a mysterious haunting.   I highly recommend it.

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