Title/Author: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Publisher/Year: Riverhead Trade, 2009
Where I Got It: I picked up a copy from my library's used book sale
Why I Read It: Any book blurbed by Stephen King is a must-read for me!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
With The Little Stranger, Waters revisits the fertile setting of Britain in the 1940s - and gives us a sinister tale of a haunted house, brimming with the rich atmosphere and psychological complexity that have become hallmarks of Waters's work.
The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline - its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.
Abundantly atmospheric and elegantly told, The Little Stranger is Sarah Waters's most thrilling and ambitious novel yet.
This book came as a surprise to me in many ways.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
I was surprised by how quickly the pages flew by.
I was surprised by how good it was.
I mean, Sarah Waters can really write. When I first picked this up and saw that it was 500 pages long, I was wary. I thought it would take me forever to get through. After the first 40-ish pages, though, I was hooked. I felt like I was hypnotized. I'd sit down for what felt like ten minutes, and here it'd be hours later and I'd be hundreds of pages down the road. Even when I wanted to be doing other things, like blogging or whatever, I couldn't bring myself to put the book down. And like I said, Sarah Waters writes really well. Her prose is beautiful, but at the same time, I wasn't even really aware that I was reading. I was able to picture everything perfectly clear, and her story is one of the most atmospheric I've ever read. Hundreds Hall was so sinister, it was like I could feel it oozing off the pages. I was genuinely creeped out at parts, particularly that nursery scene.
I did have a few frustrations, though. By the end, Doctor Faraday made me want to scream, which I'm guessing was Sarah Water's intention. I get it. You have to play the rational card. But seriously--how much has to happen for you to start thinking that maybe something weird is happening that can't be explained rationally? Also, without wanting to give anything away, I found him to be too forward and definitely too persistent without having any reason to be so. Crazy obsessive stalker, much?
And finally, the ending just didn't really do it for me. I thought it was terribly anti-climactic. It was like, "Oh man, all this stuff is happening!" and then all of a sudden: "Oh...well...okay, I suppose that's it." Part of my frustration with the ending, too, is that Sarah Waters leaves it with one of those open-ended endings for the reader to decide what happened. Personally, I'm not a big fan of those, so it didn't work for me.
All things considered, though, it was an awesome read. Gothic, subtle, creepy, atmospheric, hypnotizing. I would definitely recommend it.