How does one sum up such a book as The Little Stranger? How does one accurately put this sprawling, Gothic decadence of a novel into words that will make every reader of this humble, inadequate blog post run out and grab themselves a copy?
Newsday calls it, “Completely absorbing… I wanted to linger in that fictional world, page by page, chapter by chapter.”
Not good enough.
The Seattle Times says, “A virtuoso writer… If you want a ghost story that creeps up your spine, The Little Stranger delivers.”
Closer, but still not it. This is about the closest;
“Waters has managed to write a near-perfect gothic novel,” says Laura Miller for Salon.com. “While at the same time confidently deploying the form into fresher territory. It’s an astonishing performance, right down to the book’s mournful and devastating final sentence.”
And oh, what a mournful and devastating final sentence it is. It still haunts me.
“And perhaps there is a limit to the grieving that the human heart can do. As when one adds salt to a tumbler of water, there comes a point where simply no more will be absorbed.”
The Little Stranger. It is about so much, too much for this humble blogger to even begin to capture. And it is when it comes to talking about what, exactly, it is about is where I get tongue tied. In truth, I find I have no words. Plus, it is my personal belief that coming into the book with little knowledge of what it is about the better to feel the full impact of it. All I knew going in was that so many of my blogging friends loved Sarah Waters, that it was a Gothic, spooky read, and that it would fulfill part of my requirements for RIP V. I had no idea of the… treat… I was in for. It is a ghost story, set in postwar Britain. There is an old, ancestral haunted house full of lots of macabre atmosphere, creaks and groans, and bumps in the night. Doctor Faraday returns to the house he last saw 30 years ago as a young boy, just as enamored with it as he was then. He leads a quiet life as a respectable country doctor but soon, however, he finds himself caught up in the Ayres family’s drama. Son Roderick has returned from World War II a broken and scarred young man and Faraday becomes his doctor, bringing him to the house quite often. The house is in decline, it’s masonry crumbling into dust, the once lush gardens stifled with weeds, and most of it closed off, already retired from life. What is it, exactly, that haunts the house, be it something malevolent or just a dying way life? I would love to hear what you think.
The class struggles! Woman’s place in society! The history of medical practices and how Britain was forever changed by World War II! Sarah Waters is such a master, I hate I waited to so long to try one of her books. Her writing is so amazing. Here, read this. This is suspense. This is how to do it…
No wind disturbed the branches of the trees, no bird rose, even, in the thin, chill air, and if any sound had come, any movement been made, I would have caught it. Nothing changed, nothing at all-and yet, it began to seem to me that something was there in the garden with us, creeping or edging towards us across the crisp, white snow. Worse than that, I had the bizarre impression that this thing, whatever it was, was in some way familiar: as if its bashful advance towards us was more properly a return. I felt the flesh of my back rise, anticipating a touch-as in a childish game of tig. I drew my hands from hers, and twisted round, looking wildly about. p. 403
I have endeavored to write a review of this masterpiece for about two weeks now. I even had over 500 words written about it and I just deleted them all. They were not good enough to describe how I have come to feel about this book. I am almost obsessed with it. I am surprised I have been able to read anything since finishing it. It’s a reading slump started for sure. Sarah Waters pulled me, head over heels, into this dark, mysterious novel and has yet to turn me loose. I’m afraid this review is very “tripping over my own feet,” but it’s the best I can do. It wouldn’t let me go until I reviewed it. Sitting here now, writing this out with pen to paper, and glancing at the book by my side, I feel compelled to pick it up and loose myself in it all over again. And that, my friends is the highest recommendation I can give any book. I urge you to go pick up The Little Stranger now, as the days get shorter and cooler, as the trees begin to turn and the earth goes to sleep for a time, get lost in the world of Hundreds Hall and the lives of Doctor Faraday, Caroline, Roderick and Mrs Ayres. You will not regret it.
The Little Stranger
Written by Sarah Waters
Published 04 May 2010
by Riverhead Books
Paperback, 512 pages
Purchased from The Book Depository
Rated 5 out of 5
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