The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

This month I’ve been reading books of a scary bent with a concentration on those were set before 1960. Earlier in the year I read The Little Stranger. Set in the spooky manor of Hundreds Hall during 1940′s post-war Britain, The Little Stranger follows the exploits of Dr. Faraday as he becomes embroiled in the menacing familial woes of the once wealthy Ayres family – elderly Mrs. Ayres and her adult children; Caroline, and Roger, a crippled war veteran. A ghost story set against the backdrop of the disintegration of wealth and emerging class struggles, the story is immediately engrossing and superbly told.

This was my first foray into Waters after years of collecting her novels.  I was happy that a nudge from Rebecca set this book firmly in my path, and the novel turned out to be one that I finished with a satisfying sigh. It is one of the first books in quite some time that I wanted to start over again right away. Waters deftly weaves the history of the Ayres family and the country physician who has always taken an interest in the comings and goings at Hundreds Hall, where his mother worked and where he once visited so memorably long before.

Waters is a fine observer of class behaviors and distinctions, and I loved the way that she covers the ambivalence, conflict, and tensions between Dr. Faraday and the family with whom he becomes intimately involved. Each plays in questionable ways on the others’ vulnerabilities in the new and uncertain times, and the nerves and fever pitch that the strange happenings in the house add to the mix made for a smart, yet tricky compelling read. As Waters masterfully dropped her pieces into place, I carefully considered the options presented in the story that she was telling, and looked over my shoulder to see what ghosts, real or imagined, were held by my own home.

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