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The Little Stranger

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One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive 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. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

466 pages, Hardcover

First published April 30, 2009

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About the author

Sarah Waters

36 books8,099 followers
Sarah Waters is a British novelist. She is best known for her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, as well the novels that followed, including Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch.

Waters attended university, earning degrees in English literature. Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching. Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel. It was during the process of writing her thesis that she thought she would write a novel; she began as soon as the thesis was complete.

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5 stars
9,878 (18%)
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,982 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
78 reviews54 followers
May 22, 2009
If you are looking for a traditional horror novel, you won't find it in
The Little Stranger. This book is not a variant on The Shining that just happens to be set in post-WWII Britain: it is essentially historical fiction that happens to have a touch of the supernatural about it. And as historical fiction it is excellent. Sarah Waters evokes the atmosphere not only of another time (1947) but, for Americans at least, another place as well because in many ways The Little Stranger is a very "British" novel. In her depictions of the Ayres family and Hundreds Hall, the author shows us the final death throes of an entire British way of life that had lasted for centuries in one form or another. Whatever our modern feelings of distate for a formal class system may be, the author makes us feel how devastating the loss of it was for those at the top, and how it left them adrift, not only physically due to lack of servants, but ethically as well: for if they are not, as Mrs. Ayres describes, "an example" of all that is good for those below them, what purpose do they serve?

Another lingering remnant of that way of life that plays an important role in the story is the idea that what you can achieve is - at least partially - determined by who your parents were in local society. Dr. Faraday, the son of a shop-keeper and a mother who had been "in-service", still feels the awkwardness of being the first in his family to "rise above their place". The resistance of what is left of "county society" to the new ideas of equality and independence is very obvious when they gather at Hundreds Hall for a small evening party and find Dr. Faraday in attendance, drink in hand. Regardless of his evening dress, they immediately assume he is there only because someone is ill. It has to be explained to them that he is there as a guest and even then there is some awkwardness, not because of who Dr. Faraday is, but because of who his parents were. Dr. Faraday may be a perfectly nice man and a skilled doctor, but he's still not quite "their sort".

If immersion in the atmosphere of a historical period does not interest you, you will not like The Little Stranger. A great deal of what is horrifying in the novel - and it is horrifying - is intimately tied to that cultural period of British history. If the supernatural "incidents" are pulled out of the story and examined strictly for their shock value a la modern horror novels, they will be disappointing. This book is the result of many different threads, interwoven so skillfully that they cannot be separated and still make any sense. The supernatural aspects of the story are also of the more ambigous variety. If you enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House, The Turn of the Screw or even the more modern A Good and Happy Child you will enjoy the frightening elements of The Little Stranger. If you prefer your supernatural forces to come with complete explanations, this book may feel incomplete to you.

Link to an interesting review of this book by NPR.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
September 16, 2018
sigh. i tried to read this slowly and still finished it in two days. i suck. but i can't help it - she writes so well, and her stories are so damn compelling; the pages virtually turn themselves. but sorry, ladies, no lesbians this time. i never thought i would see the day. what else is sarah waters for, if not lesbian love?? evidently, dickensian ghost stories in postwar settings... ooooorrrr iiiiisss iiiitttt?

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Margaret.
79 reviews58 followers
October 31, 2011
Departing from her preferred 19th century context, as she did in her last book The Night Watch, Sarah Waters sets her latest novel in post-World War II Warwickshire and tries her hand at an Old Dark House, Haunted-Or-Is-It story in the Jamesian tradition of subtle, ambiguous psychological chillers (The Turn of the Screw, The Beast In the Jungle. But while James intuitively understood that the atmosphere of such tales depends on sustaining the unsettling mood, and so they’re best realized – and indeed intensified - by the concentrated form of a novella or short story, Waters’ book trudges on for more than 450 pages, grinding all the tension and eeriness out of her narrative as it inches glacially forward like a literary Bataan Death March. No suspense story can maintain its energy at this pace, it’s like one of those jazz singers who sing standards so slowly that the melody disintegrates into just a sequence of individual disconnected notes, drained of any musical or emotional meaning. Waters is a good stylist, and there are sections of the book where you can see what she was trying for – the evocation of the house, Hundreds Hall, and its unsettling decline is especially successful – and I respect her for trying something new, but overall I didn’t think she achieved what she was aiming for, and that surprised me. She seems like too smart a writer to have fallen into this particular trap.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,217 reviews9,899 followers
August 24, 2016
Any reader of Fingersmith will know how Sarah Waters drags the old tricks of ancient fiction out of retirement and makes them dance for us again. There it was Dickens and Wilkie Collins; here its Henry James and his Turn of the Screw, The Fall of the House of Usher, and any number of novels and movies with huge crumbling stately homes at their centre. Operating where the psychological and the supernatural ooze along together, The Little Stranger unhurriedly creeps the reader into its Gothic murderousness. Lightly and effortlessly the political-cultural background weaves into the tale, which is set in 1947, as the radical Labour government steams ahead with such socialist solutions as the National Health Service, and the upper classes, personified by the blighted Ayreses, crumble and visibly wither. One of the many pleasures of this wonderful novel….

No, I’m so sorry. That is the review I would have liked to write.

But I can’t.

Sorry Sarah, but, you know, what were you thinking? You who wrote the mighty Fingersmith? And who latterly thrilled my very ventricles with The Paying Guests?
(In parenthesis : is she trying to win Most Boring Novel Title of the Year? The Paying Guests? The Night Watchman? The Little Stranger? What next, The Middle Manager, The Folded Knapkin, The Acceptable Reservation ?)

For here we have a lengthy tale of a working class lad made good, he’s become a doctor, and the local decayed upper class family he befriends. These toffs have the stately home and the land but they have no money at all, so the whole pile is gradually falling to bits. For 500 pages.

Yes, it’s a metaphor. Like all huge old houses, or castles. Dracula, Gormenghast, Bleak House. The Shining. Manderley. Wuthering Heights. Hill House.

A typical passage from The Little Stranger

A couple of panes in the window were cracked, the sash frame crumbling around them. A corner hand-basin gave off a sour, uriney smell, and the boards beneath were almost rotting where a leaking tap had dripped. The wallpaper had a raised pattern of loops and arabesques that had once, she recalled suddenly, been very colourful. It had been painted over with a drab distemper, which the damp was turning to a sort of curd.

It’s a long slow mournful crepuscular celebration of decay, but what, we may ask, is the point of it all? That the upper classes were clapped out and finished by the convulsing social order of the post-WW2 radicalism? What nonsense. A lot of families like the Ayreses had to look sharp and reposition themselves – get with the new land management and farming sciences for example, or open their vast mansions to the public – otherwise I’m sure some did go the way of the unpleasant posh tossers here exhibited. But has the upper class gone away? Oh no, I don’t think so!

The 7th Duke of Westminster, 25-year-old Hugh Grosvenor, is now the heir to a legacy worth more than £9bn.
Thanks to a series of trusts, which are thought to date to the death of the 2nd Duke in 1953, Hugh and his three sisters will avoid having to pay the 40% levy ordinary families are faced with when parents die.
“For people who are really wealthy, inheritance tax has become an optional choice,” said John Christensen, director of the Tax Justice Network. “If you are lucky to be born into a very wealthy family you will be untaxed. For most normal people this is extraordinary and unacceptable.”

The Guardian, 10 August, 2016

Reading The Little Stranger one might think that 1947 was Britain’s more melancholy and sepia tinted version of St Petersburg 1917.

So then we have the spooky-ookums stuff. As with all these rascally writers, they have their cake and they eat it. They will never come out and declare this stuff is either in their characters’ unbalanced psyches or that there really is a poltygeist moving ashtrays three inches to the left and knocking from inside the cupboard and what all. No, they are perfectly ambiguous all the time. It’s a cop out. Fans of this kind of guff like to stroke their chins and ponder. Sarah Waters even puts the rational point of view centre stage, in the brain of her protagonist – but what a meanminded insidious creep this guy is. If he was the last rationalist in the world gimme the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

In the end this was a story where a succession of unpleasant things happen to a small number of unpleasant people.

But hey, at least I broke my run of seven three-star novels!
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews762 followers
February 14, 2020
Dr. Faraday is called over to Hundreds Hall on summer day when someone on the estate falls ill. While there he strikes up a friendship with the family and in the coming months is pulled into their problems. Hundreds Hall is said to be haunted and as the months pass by it becomes more and more confusing to tell whether the effect of the house on the people living in it is due to it being haunted or the steady deterioration of the estate and the status of the people who inhabit it in a world changing around them.

Really well written if a tad bit long. I love when authors leave things ambiguous and it could go either way. There was one thing that annoyed me though was Dr.Faraday's obsession with the Ayres and his desperation to be friends with them. I just couldn't stand his constant feelings of inferiority stemming from his childhood and how he still so desperately needed everyone's approval. I know that was the whole point but it was so irritating. It was really well done though and his obsession with the estate really just added to the whole creepy feeling surrounding it. The book did build up really slowly though and there isn't any clear outcome about what was happening in the house so if that sort of thing will bother you I would skip this one.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,944 reviews610 followers
August 26, 2023
In the 50s, old houses were "out of time" in England. Faraday, a country doctor, thus got to know the Ayers family, whom he knew as a child and who today find themselves isolated and very poor.
Little by little, strange events follow one another in the house.
The frequency of these "accidents" quickly becomes worrying, and we dive into a mysterious atmosphere and unhealthy ...
We oscillate from the start in a slightly gothic atmosphere; the house seems enormous, humid, and scary; the characters are pretty strange, some maybe not quite what they seem.
The writing is quality, and the rise of suspense is in crescendo.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews945 followers
July 15, 2011
This review is going to be like one of those fridge poetry thingymabobs because I'm tired and coherency isn't a top priority of mine right now.
Here are some words and phrases that came to my mind after finishing this book, in no particular order.

Atmospheric | Subtle| DON'T LOOK THROUGH THE KEYHOLE! | Observations are almost clinical at points | Man, I need to read more of Sarah Waters' books | Passionate | Perfectly paced | Holy twisteroo, Batman | WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! | Don't go upstairs and investigate, you fruit loop! | Grow a pair, Doctor. | Something bad is going to happen to that dog, isn't it?! | Sinister | SERIOUSLY, QUIT WITH THE KEYHOLE! | Astonishing | I wonder if the Tipping the Velvet adaptation is still available on Iplayer | What the eff? | Um, OK... I'm sure my door wasn't open a second ago. | The TV adaptation of this that is inevitably going to be shown at Christmas on the BBC is going to be as terrifying/cracked out/what the hell is going on?-esque as 'Whistle and I'll Come To You'. Yeah, thanks for ruining Christmas for me, John Hurt. | Always listen to the raving crazy when it comes to ghosts and/or the apocalypse- they have never been wrong.| Remarkable. |

Delete/rearrange as you please.

I only have one gripe.
Profile Image for Candi.
622 reviews4,715 followers
November 13, 2017
"I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district… I recall most vividly the house itself, which struck me as an absolute mansion. I remember its lovely ageing details: the worn red brick, the cockled window glass, the weathered sandstone edgings. They made it look blurred and slightly uncertain – like an ice, I thought, just beginning to melt in the sun."

What I liked most about this, my first Sarah Waters' book, were the striking descriptions of the magnificent Georgian mansion. Once a splendid home that was renowned throughout the district of Warwickshire, Hundreds Hall now stands in a state of ruination, due to the effects of World War II and the Ayres’s declining family fortune. The characters are well-drawn, including the dignified Mrs. Ayres, her surly son Roderick who returned from the war with his share of battle wounds, her slightly awkward yet intelligent daughter Caroline, and the ingratiating family doctor, Faraday. From the time he first set eyes on Hundreds Hall as a child, Dr. Faraday has had a peculiar fascination with both the house as well as its inhabitants. When summoned to the estate to tend to the so-called illness of Betty, the newest family maid, Dr. Faraday rapidly becomes immersed in the Ayres’s lives and their attendant troubles.

The novel is constructed skillfully from the outset to be an eerie Gothic ghost story, with the rambling and decaying manor and a series of baffling and disturbing happenings. The story is written as a first-person narrative, from Dr. Faraday’s point of view. Now, I generally don’t find fault with books written in the first-person, as long as done so effectively. In this case, Dr. Faraday is not directly involved in many of the menacing goings-on at the house. Rather, he recounts the events told to him by the occupants of Hundreds Hall. He tells us what he heard from Caroline, or Mrs. Ayres, or Roderick, or in some cases the maid, Betty. The suspense was subsequently watered down for me as a result. Dr. Faraday is a famously unreliable narrator as well – which is not a complaint in and of itself; however, his removal from the events as well as his questionable credibility took me out of the plot a bit. There was no single character I liked, nor one sufficiently detestable for me to revel in my distaste – not even the purported ghost! Perhaps I unfairly kept making comparisons to one of my all-time favorite novels, Rebecca. I was searching for my Mrs. Danvers, trying to sympathize with the narrator, and looking for a climax that would electrify me. It just didn’t quite happen. I was left with too many questions and felt a shred of dissatisfaction as a result. Since finishing the book, I have drawn my own conclusion that I would like to put to Ms. Waters. I suspect she didn’t mean for me to truly know her intent, however, so I will have to be content with my own interpretation.

Despite my slightly lukewarm review, there were enough redeeming qualities to this novel that I will certainly read another title in this author’s repertoire at some point in time.

"The subliminal mind has many dark, unhappy corners, after all."
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
580 reviews4,073 followers
October 28, 2021
Si os gustan las casas encantadas este es vuestro libro, porque pocas tan memorables como Hundreds Hall.
La historia es una mezcla perfecta de literatura inglesa de principios del XX y de un relato gótico de fantasmas. Si os gustan las dos cosas os va a encantar, en cambio si solo queréis puro terror se os hará pesada y si sois miedosos sufriréis un poco con ella.
Yo que soy gran aficionada de ambas cosas la disfruté muchísimo y me tuvo atrapada de principio a fin, aún con ese estilo pausado y cargado de una atmósfera asfixiante.

Aunque me encantó el retrato de los personajes tan sutil y efectivo, para mi lo mejor sin duda es cómo la autora muestra el clasismo británico, las diferencias entre clases sociales y la decadencia de la nobleza (muy al estilo de 'Lo que queda del día' o 'Retorno a Brideshead'). La parte más sobrenatural la disfruté bastante también, aunque más al inicio que al final, porque según empiezas la historia saboreas mucho las descripciones (tanto de lugares como de personajes) y en el desenlace es todo más frenético.

En fin, que la he disfrutado mucho y creo que es la lectura perfecta para estas fechas.
Profile Image for Matt.
936 reviews28.6k followers
April 26, 2016
The one thing I’ve learned from reading my first two Sarah Waters novels (Tipping the Velvet and The Paying Guests) is the value of patience. She starts things slowly, building character and the environment with deliberate care and copious detail. Plot is secondary, and it can take awhile for the endgame to come into focus. With The Little Stranger, however, my patience nearly ran out.

The Little Stranger is a bit of a departure for Waters in that she plays things straight. Sexually, I mean. Her historical fiction – based on what I’ve read, and what I have on my shelf – is usually told through a gay/lesbian viewpoint. Not here. In this novel, the main character/first-person narrator is Dr. Faraday who, on account of being a man, is most certainly not a lesbian. He is also not very interesting.

The Little Stranger is Waters’ entry into pure genre territory. Specifically, this is an old fashioned ghost story featuring that most reliable of settings: the splendid old haunted house. I love it when talented authors work within genre trappings. And since autumn is approaching, I decided to get a jump on my seasonal reading.

The house in question, here, is Hundreds Hall, a Georgian-style mansion located in rural Warwickshire, England. Hundreds Hall has been the seat of the Ayres family for over two hundred years. When the novel opens, the Hundreds is in decline. We are in the late 1940s, in Great Britain’s post-World War II, post-Empire transition to the mean. The house – and the society it represents – is crumbling. Most of the servants have left (Faraday’s mother, naturally, once worked there). Old estates are being carved up by developers so that the peasants can have their own hovels. There is even the specter of – gasp! – socialized medicine on the horizon. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the offstage presence of Clement Attlee looms far more terrifying in the characters’ minds than any paranormal activity in the Hundreds.

Only three Ayres are left in Hundreds Hall, the siblings Roderick and Caroline, and their mother, Mrs. Ayres. Mrs. Ayres is the fading matriarch, an avatar of the old days now reduced to reusing postage stamps and rereading letters from her late husband (she is also still in mourning for a dead daughter). Roderick was in the RAF during the war, and has returned badly injured and – perhaps – psychologically unsound. Caroline is the eccentric spinster-to-be, a pure Waters creation:

Her hair was a pale English brown and might, with proper treatment, have been handsome, but I had never seen it tidy, and just now it fell drily to her shoulders, as if she had washed it with kitchen soap and then forgotten to comb it. Added to that, she had the worst dress-sense of any woman I ever knew. She was wearing boyish flat sandals and a badly fitting pale summer dress, not at all flattering to her wide hips and large bosom. Her eyes were hazel, highly set; her face was long with an angular jaw, her profile flattish. Only her mouth, I thought, was good: surprisingly large, well-shaped, and mobile.

Each of these characters is extremely well-drawn, carefully described, and fully realized. The house, as well, is given its proper due as a major player in the drama. It is wonderfully described with the kind of painstaking care that du Maurier gave to Manderley.

The story is set in motion when Dr. Faraday is summoned to Hundreds Hall due to the illness of Betty, one of the few remaining servants. It turns out that Betty isn’t really sick; rather, she’s creeped out by something in the house. Dr. Faraday makes a good impression on the family, and soon he is returning on a regular basis to provide treatment for Roderick’s injuries. It is never quite clear whether Faraday is being drawn by the house by some supernatural force, or whether he is simply a bourgeois scrambler trying to up-jump a class or two during a period of social upheaval.

Waters approaches her story from an oblique angle. She is working with the fundamentals of a haunted house tale, but instead of tackling it head on, she is content to nibble at the edges. The novel takes on a certain rhythm. There will be a mysterious or unexplained event at the house. That event will be given an explanation and forgotten. Then there will be a bunch of other side-plots and digressions until something else happens. With that, the cycle begins again. Instead of creating tension, this structuring releases it like a leaky steam valve. The Little Stranger fails to generate any chills. It is a novel filled with atmosphere; unfortunately for a horror story, none of them is dread.

Part of the problem is that Waters is clearly more interested in her sideshows than in the central mystery of the haunting of Hundreds Hall. This is too bad, because the chief sideshow is a tepid, awkward “romance” (yes, this romance deserves air-quotes) between Caroline and Dr. Faraday. Caroline is indifferent and, in a different Waters novel, would be gay. Dr. Faraday is closer to asexual. Unsurprisingly, this supplies all the erotic tension of a beer-league slow-pitch softball game. I can’t be sure, but I feel like The Little Stranger is an attempt by Waters not to be pigeonholed. She achieved great success with her excessive, gay Victoriana settings. Here, she seems to be providing a corrective. A book that is subdued and sedate, without a giant dildo anywhere in sight.

(The Haunting of Hill House has to be an inspiration for any haunted house story. I was looking forward to Waters being able to play with the psychosexual undercurrents that simmered beneath the surface of Shirley Jackson’s novel. I must say I was surprised, and I guess a bit disappointed, that the undercurrents of this novel were financial distress).

Another issue is that Waters seems to get stuck between styles. This is Gothic horror material that Waters conveys in a realist style. I think this approach can work. Indeed, I think you can create a certain amount of tension by grounding the Gothic elements in the real. Waters, though, is far more comfortable in the real, building her setting, defining her characters. When it comes time for the Gothic elements to intrude, she doesn’t seem to entirely commit to them.

I also disagree with Waters decision to utilize a first-person narrator for this type of story. I’m against first-person narrators in general (I have my reasons), but in a book like this, it extinguishes any possibility of fright. There are three major set pieces involving the haunts of Hundreds Hall. Dr. Faraday, since he does not live at the house, is not present for two of them. Thus, when it comes time to relate what happened, Faraday must deliver the narrative secondhand, after it has already happened, and happened to others. There is always a layer between the reader and the story; here, there is a second, unnecessary layer. It’s the difference between me reading The Little Stranger, and me having a buddy explain the book to me after he’s read it.

There is something to be said for subtlety. I appreciated how, early on, Waters is content to be deliberate. Things are a little spooky but mostly not. It’s a nice tease. As things unfold, however, you get the sensation that the tease might be all there is. Waters is not overly concerned with unraveling the mysterious presence – if one exists at all – in the Hundreds. She is far more intent on exploring the Ayres’ existential crisis. No ghost or goblin can terrorize the Ayres family so well as the National Health Service or the rise of the professional class. The novel’s big conclusion, which should have been macabre (or something; it should have been something), is instead presented in such a plodding fashion that it’s almost like Waters is pulling a prank.

I had hoped, when I picked this up, that I’d see Sarah Waters doing a Shirley Jackson or Stephen King impression. Instead, it is Sarah Waters doing a suppressed version of Sarah Waters. It just doesn’t work.
Profile Image for Diana.
246 reviews5 followers
November 2, 2009
I was quite torn about how to rate this book and went between 2 and 3 stars. I love most of Waters' books. I loved Tipping the Velvet and Affinity was a great ghost story, but this book was like her other book Night Watch-long, drawn-out and left me wondering what the point was. Faraday, the main character is not really likeable-but that being said, neither are any of the other characters. The book ends with no real wrapping up of any details-though you are left with this feeling that the author is trying to be clever and point the finger many different ways. By the last page, I stopped caring who the Little Stranger was. It took way to long to try and figure that out. I wish Waters would go back to writing about the Victorian time period. I give it three stars because some of her writing-especially with the mishaps in the house that were exciting and propelled me on through the mire of the rest of the writing. I just wish when I got to the end, it was an actual ending.
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
798 reviews595 followers
October 28, 2018
3.75 Stars → I've had THE LITTLE STRANGER on my wish list for years, so I decided to use an Audible credit and listen to it in October. The audio was narrated by Simon Vance, and I enjoyed his performance very much. I love his voice - first heard him when I listened to BRING UP THE BODIES (which was wonderful!).

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a slow-burn, atmospheric novel of suspense. I thought it was beautifully written, quite absorbing, and downright creepy at times. It was a story that I looked forward to jumping back into. That said, I also thought it was a bit too long and drawn out, and the ending doesn't wrap up with a tidy bow.

Set in the late 1940s, this book centers around an English physician's relationship with a down-on-its-luck aristocratic family and their crumbling ancestral home called Hundreds Hall. Odd things are happening in the house, and family members suspect the cause is a malicious supernatural presence, but the doctor is not easily convinced.

Like I mentioned before, there's no neat and tidy ending where everything is explained, which is a bit frustrating. I drew my own conclusions from the evidence given, and I suppose I'll have to be satisfied with that.
Profile Image for Ana Cristina Lee.
662 reviews270 followers
April 30, 2022
Esta novela tiene los elementos básicos de la narración gótica de mansión con fantasma, pero con un plus: hay un contexto histórico y social muy detallado, el de un pequeño pueblo inglés en los años posteriores a la segunda guerra mundial, así como unos personajes muy poco convencionales y bien trazados.

El doctor Faraday nos va narrando sus visitas a la mansión de la familia Ayres, Hundreds Hall y cómo la decadencia imparable se ha apoderado del viejo caserón y de sus habitantes. Sólo queda la madre y sus dos hijos: Roderick, que ha vuelto enfermo de la guerra y Caroline, que dedica su existencia a cuidar de su madre y su hermano. La fascinación que este mundo ejerce sobre el doctor, cuya madre había servido en el Hall antes de la guerra, y la posibilidad de relacionarse con la familia en términos de igualdad es lo que articula toda la trama. Los factores sobrenaturales están y no están, ya que lo más potente son las relaciones que se establecen entre los protagonistas y los giros que presenta la historia.

A mí me ha gustado bastante, pero es irregular y hay trozos en que el interés decae: demasiadas idas y venidas a la mansión, demasiados recorridos por los pasillos... para mí con 200 páginas menos habría sido mejor. Es cierto que la ambientación es impecable y el volumen de páginas supongo que contribuye al detalle y a situarte en una época y un lugar concreto, de modo que nos da una visión interesante de la decadencia de los pequeños hacendados y el ascenso de las clases medias después de la guerra.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews532 followers
March 4, 2016

An eerie,engrossing haunted house tale. The plot pulls you in and holds you firmly in it's grip. A deep,disturbing, gothic ghost story of the highest order. Subtle and poignant. I could not put it down!

Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,432 followers
May 10, 2020
Pandemic rereads #3

I first read The Little Stranger when it was published in paperback, in 2010. As with many of my most-loved novels, I have occasionally gone back to flip through it and read pages at random; also, I have often reread the ending, which is my favourite, I think, of any book. But I hadn't read it in full since that first time.

Reading something like this, now, takes me back to a time when I read books in a completely different way. My Goodreads shelves from 2010 are full of books I chanced across at the library or bought because they were cheap. I didn't entirely understand the distinction between literary and genre fiction; I was only just beginning to understand my own tastes; I wasn't yet writing proper reviews. Even though I wasn't at some particularly impressionable age when I read it, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that The Little Stranger was a formative book for me. The idea that I might not like it as much second time around didn't even cross my mind. And I was right – I still think it's about as perfect as a novel can be.

The story is set in the late 1940s and told from the perspective of Faraday, a country doctor in Warwickshire. In the third chapter, he is invited to a small party at nearby Hundreds Hall, a grand – but now declining – house he has admired since childhood. At the party, there is an unfortunate accident which reflects badly on the Ayres family, the owners of Hundreds, and also binds Faraday to them. Thereafter, he becomes a regular visitor to the Hall and develops a friendship with its inhabitants: Mrs Ayres, the widowed matriarch; Roderick, the son and heir, injured in the war; and his sister Caroline, to whom Faraday is attracted, despite frequently describing her plain, unappealing appearance.

At around the same time, strange things start to happen at Hundreds. Black marks and scratched words appear on the walls and ceilings; objects disappear when someone's back is turned, then reappear in odd places; furniture seems to move of its own volition. Is the place haunted? Roderick comes to believe the house is infected with something, a thing from which he must protect his mother and sister. Mrs Ayres wonders whether it could be the spirit of her first daughter, Susan, who died as a little girl. Meanwhile, Faraday grows closer to Caroline, and his obsession with Hundreds tightens its grip.

The first time I read The Little Stranger, I think I was quite spooked by the 'hauntings'. This time, they elicited little response from me; in fact, I was quite surprised by how small a part of the greater story they seemed. I think this is because I knew what I was looking for. If I couldn't remember every twist of the plot, I certainly remembered how it ended, and I knew which character to study closely, which moments to analyse. This made my second reading a less surprising, yet more rewarding, experience.

Waters' prose is impeccable. The narrative describes everything – it's rich with detail, fussy with detail, but it has to be. So much of what Faraday notices is telling. So much of what he describes illuminates his motives. It's the opposite of the clean and self-consciously witty style that's in fashion now, and I have to say I think I prefer it. A handful of scenes near the end – Faraday's last with Caroline – are especially masterful: we are seeing things through Faraday's eyes, but Waters makes us understand them through Caroline's.

And not to bang on about it, but the ending. THE ENDING! I am quite happy to say that The Little Stranger has the best closing paragraph of any novel I have ever read. It is a five-line masterwork, and if it isn't being taught on creative writing courses everywhere then it definitely should be.


Original review (December 2010?)
I don't know why I didn't write a review of this when I read it, presumably because I didn't have time - I'll have to rectify this at some point, but would have to read the book in full again in order to do it justice. I can say that I thought it was absolutely wonderful - an automatic addition to my all-time favourites list; I'd give it six stars if I could. It seems to have divided opinion among other readers, and I'd love to say I understand why, but actually I don't. In my eyes The Little Stranger is an outstanding book with one of the most brilliant, subtle, yet absolutely revelatory endings I have ever read.
Profile Image for Char.
1,681 reviews1,554 followers
March 17, 2015
3.5 stars!

I have to admit it, I was disappointed in this book. Yes, I gave it 3.5 stars, but I was expecting to give it 5. I know some of you out there know what I'm feeling.

I'm not going to get into the plot too much...there's a huge old estate falling into disrepair in post-war England. The estate is as much a character as the people, and I liked it more than some of them. There is the matter of the family that owns the house and the reduction of their status in society. There is the matter of the family doctor who keeps coming round, though he never seems to be of help to the family living in the home, as one by one, they fall victim to the house and its evil machinations. Or was it the house at all? Perhaps it was a ghost? Perhaps it was madness? These are the questions that kept me reading.

This story was well written, but not as well told as I had hoped. I felt that 100 pages could easily have been deleted and the story would have lost nothing. The atmosphere was rich in detail and setting, but not so much in the feeling. (I hope this makes sense to you.) This tale had the feel of M.R. James to it, but there's no doubt in my mind-James did it better and in far less words.

Overall, I enjoyed this tale-be it of a haunted house, a psychological horror story, or a commentary on society, or all of the above. I just wish it had been a little bit shorter, more atmospheric, and held a few more thrills. Recommended for patient fans of haunted house stories.

Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,155 followers
March 29, 2018
This was a re-read for me in anticipation of the upcoming adaptation. I have always planned to reread THE LITTLE STRANGER from the very moment I finished it the first time shortly after its release. By then I was already a huge fan of Sarah Waters and had read her entire backlist, so I was delirious for a new novel from her with a gothic feel. While I loved it the first time, I also saw that my own expectations for the book, based in part on the marketing and in part on all the rest of her books, had marred my experience somewhat. This was not going to be FINGERSMITH. It is not a sexy book in the least. And while it is full of twists and turns, it doesn't have the breakneck pace of some of her other work. But with all that said, now that I have been able to come to the book again and let myself take it just as it is, it is one of her very best.

In the years since I first read THE LITTLE STRANGER I've also read more deeply into gothic and horror, I've grown a deep love of the quiet, creepy atmospheric novel. It is one of my very favorite styles. If you come to this book expecting it to be anything other than slow and unsettling, you will find yourself quite disappointed. (Perhaps the biggest mistake they could have made was the Stephen King blurb on my copy's cover. While he is correct that it is creepy as hell, it doesn't give readers the proper expectations.)

Since I let myself slow down and read this in a leisurely way (on vacation! in a bathtub!) I got to soak in the truly memorable creation that is Hundreds House. While I have a lot of skepticism around any adaptation, I can't deny that the setting is a dream. It is so lovingly described to us by Dr. Faraday, who came from working class parents and whose own mother was once a servant there, it is the crumbling British gentry given shape. Everything about it is unnecessary, overly decorative, even nonsensical. It is not functional, it is all splendor and awe, but it is also too delicate to survive for long without proper care. It is the kind of house where whole wings and floors are shut up because they simply take too much effort.

Likewise, the Ayres family is the now-scrounging aristocracy that still has the pressure and burden of family and forebears, but now doesn't have the fortune to do what is needed. The world is changing but they do not know how to become modern. Roderick, the man of the house after his father's death, is scarred by the war and overcome by his managerial duties. Caroline, his sister, is left to her own devices, enjoying the lands, doing as she pleases, and generally not caring about anyone but her family. And Mrs. Ayres lives in the past, still wanting a good match for the rather unmatchable Caroline and still expecting that they will all muddle through because my goodness they've always done so before that is just what happens.

Into all of this comes Faraday, who has pulled himself into a basic middle-class respectability as a doctor only to find his profession about to change entirely with the creation of the National Health Service. Faraday does not see how obsessed he is with class, but it is quite clear to the reader. This is just one of the things Waters does so well. After his first professional visit, Faraday keeps putting Hundreds and the Ayres family into his path.

This is a slow burn at first, and I was just about to the point where I was wondering when we would just get to it already when it immediately got to it in a shocking way. After she has lulled you into expecting very little from this place and this family, all of a sudden everything becomes quite unsettling. Something is wrong. But what is it? The Ayres are fanciful and unstable, their remaining servants are superstitious and suspicious, and Faraday is often the only one who insists on being reasonable as events get stranger and stranger.

Because this is a book where we hear stories that are hard to explain, we all know the rules. The rules in a book are that what is potentially supernatural is always supernatural. It is our job as the reader to know this and it is often the narrator's job to insist on finding rational explanations. But for the book to be at its best I've found that it's good to indulge Faraday his explanations, to try to be calm and figure out what is to be done. Because this isn't the kind of book where there is any way to fend off a ghost or a haunting, if that is in fact what's happening. And in that case, what is there to be done?

Ultimately the book gives us many ways to view the terrifying events that happen in the house (and while I call this a slow burn, it is incredibly creepy and deeply unsettling though it is never exactly scary) but it seems to me there is one interpretation (that Waters gives a hint at but certainly doesn't press) that seems the most fitting. Spoilers follow:

While I often recommend a cold read where you don't have expectations coming into a book, here I heartily recommend the opposite. Come in knowing this is a slow, gothic novel, that there will be no big slam bang ending. When I approached it the second time I recalled almost nothing, just that there were some mysterious events in the house and that I had felt a little cheated that more hadn't happened the first time around. Coming to it that way, I was astonished at how very much happened, about how many times I was creeped out, at how many times I was surprised. I treasured the reading of it this second time, it was like eating a luxurious meal, cherishing each bite. The characters are so well drawn, the story so effortless, and the house was one of the best house-as-settings I can recall in all my reading days. I think most of us didn't give this book the fair shake it deserved. And while it's very understandable that it happened as it did, publishing will always try to find a flashy hook to sell a book, I think it's certainly worth a second look for people who enjoy a gothic story.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews887 followers
November 26, 2011
Unlike other goodreaders I seem to have come to this book with no great expectations. Sarah Waters is a writer whose books I have acquired in the past purely on the grounds that there are huge herds of them roaming charity shops and second hand book stores (a joy and peril of being a best seller I guess), and therefore they are easy to get hold of for next to no money. Sorry Sarah, I got all your books CHEAP! This one was £1 I think, which is good value when you think that equates to 0.001p per page and consider that you couldn't buy a plain note pad for that price, never mind one that someone has already conveniently filled with words for you!

So no lady love this time from Waters and not a lot of successful hetero love either. This is a tale of post war decay in the country as the landed classes come to terms with the fact that a Great War is a great leveller and the class system is rapidly breaking down. At the centre of this is Hundreds Hall, a once stunning and now slightly creepy historic home still occupied by the Ayres family who live there on vastly diminished terms but have still kept their status within the county.

But there is something else lurking at Hundreds Hall amongst the weeds and rust and peeling wall paper and it's more sinister than mildew or dry rot (well sort of). The trusted family doctor relates the tale as his life becomes closely interwoven with that of the family and gets a front row seat in time to watch their collective mental health unravel faster than a ball of wool with a platoon of kittens at one end.

Many have rightly asserted that this is neither full on ghost story or an assessment of the plight of the landed gentry in the wake of the war however that doesn't detract from the overall charm of the story and as always Sarah Waters has produced a well written page turner. True she won't be arm wrestling with Edgar Allen Poe for the rights to the crown of Gothic horror writer and Wilkie Collins has little to fear (actually perhaps we should fear both of them since they're dead) but whatever.

Scarily well written and compelling but I couldn't help feeling that this would have been better if The Little Stranger had been, well, a little stranger.
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
November 6, 2018
My main problem with this book was that I went into it thinking it was going to be another kind of story. I was hoping for something more along the lines of The Haunting of Hill House, where you start out with that atmospheric creepiness and weird events that you can kind of rationalize, and then the tension slowly amps up until you realize that something is very, very wrong with the house. The Little Stranger has a lot of the first part, but too little of the second.

My other problem is that the only other Sarah Waters book I’ve read is Fingersmith, which features approximately a thousand plot twists. So as I read The Little Stranger, I keep waiting breathlessly for The Twist, only to be deeply let down. It’s definitely suspenseful, and Waters keeps you guessing until the end about the exact nature of what’s going on at Hundreds Hall, but if you go into this expecting the kind of twists and revelations we got in Fingersmith, you’re going to be disappointed.

I know that this book fails as a haunted house story because the most upsetting part, for me, didn’t involve haunting-related events at all. It was the part where (no spoilers) a dog has to be put down, and I actually had to skip ahead in the audiobook because I didn’t want to cry on the train. It’s well-written and definitely brings out the emotions, but it has nothing to do with the ghosts that might or might not be wandering around Hundreds Hall. (To be fair, this is probably more of a Me Problem. This is the kind of psycho I am: I can listen to a scene where a dog literally and I’m still like NOBODY BETTER HURT THAT DOG)

If you like very, very, VERY subtle ghost stories (so subtle, in fact, that you can convincingly argue that this is a ghost story without a ghost), then The Little Stranger is for you.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,892 followers
April 4, 2022
I found this a difficult read, and long. It reminded me of watching a black and white film one that seemed both low stakes and overly melodramatic, and seemed to go forever. The type that you wander out to the kitchen to make yourself cup of tea, stay to have lunch, cook dinner, and clean up, only to find that when you go back that the film is still going. The sort of film that you shout out to one of the actresses on screen: hey! naive innocent woman of sixteen, don't marry him, even if he didn't murder his first wife, can't you see that he's gay and you're going to be terribly lonely in his big house in the middle of nowhere? but of course she doesn't listen.

Any how, reading this novel was a bit like that for me, except worse, I felt myself cringing deeply as I read, sensing that something unpleasant or inappropriate was going to happen, as it turned out my deep anticipatorary internal cringe was never in proportion to what the narrator tells us happened, I think my gut will need a week or two longer to recover though. So on the one hand I could judge the novel harshly on account of my negative reading experience, on the other I could praise the author for her skill in evoking such a reaction in me.

But why don't I review the book a little? It is a long tale of 499 pages that does not actually tell that much - the story of the relationship of Dr Faraday with the Ayres family of Hundreds a decaying grand country house whole construction was precisely completed in 1733. Not a lot happens , but it is narrated by the doctor in intense detail, which might be about atmosphere, or might be about the Doctor's intense proprietorial relationship towards the house. When a narrative is exhaustive, then maybe the question is ask is why is the narrator trying to exhaust us? What are they attempting to hide in plain sight by being so open? It seems to me that his narrative and voice is at least inspired by that of the Doctor narrator in Agatha Christie's The murder of Roger Ackroyd.

It is a text slightly haunted by Brideshead revisited - narrator's obsession with the house and it's way of life, projected in sexual desire towards possibly both (adult) children of the family; and by The remains of the day - thinking specifically of the moment when Stevens meets the doctor in the village while on his road trip, the Atlee government and the coming of the British National Health Service is a major theme here, but the doctor in this case is not looking forward to the new system with optimism, but with anxiety

There is a very tight group of characters, the doctor, the three Ayreses, their dog, and their live in servant are the core of the narrative, other people are there as filler. This gives us the Gothic theme of isolation despite the 1946 Warwickshire setting.

It is a Gothic narrative, decaying isolated, once grand house, is it haunted, isn't it haunted dynamic, there are "rational", meaning rational for 1946, explanations, having said that, unlike Brideshead there is an absence of Catholicism which is generally an essential component of the gothic narrative, which should preferably be set in Italy.

The doctor is called Faraday, but he doesn't invent any kind of safety lamp, on the contrary he is a source of danger and comes across as at least if not more powerfully possessed by the house than the family who own it.

"I shook my head. 'This is a weirder thing even than hysteria. It's as if- well, as if something's slowly sucking the life out of the whole family.'
'Something is,' he said, with another bark of laughter. 'It's called a Labour Government. The Ayreses' problem - don't you think? - is that they can't or won't adapt. Don't you get me wrong; I've a lot of sympathy for them. But what's left for an old family like that in England nowadays? Class-wise, they've had their chips. Nerve-wise, perhaps they've run their course.'"
But perhaps they will wait in the hope of that drunk Mr Churchill returning to power with his magic pint of champagne to wash away that Labour government's tentative moves towards freedom and opportunity and a decent life for all.

Considering the amount of drink drinking in this novel there is a shocking absence of road accidents.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,605 reviews2,309 followers
October 20, 2018
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is a book I picked up from the library. I accidentally gave it a four star with my fat fingers when I wrote "rtc". It really is a 3 star to me. It took a third of the book before anything weird happens. Then just when comes start getting strange, the book lags down....ugh. It does start getting creepy but I really didn't care if something killed them all off, maybe I cared about the servant girl. I am not cruel, these characters were not fleshed out enough to care. Sorry. This was an audible book and the narration was fair.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
October 17, 2018
This was one of the better books I've read by Sarah Waters ("Fingersmith" still being the best, in my opinion). In "The Little Stranger", we get to follow one doctor and one family living in Hundreds Hall. The whole story is set around these characters as their stories are entwined and their destinies develop in macabre directions. The first part of the book is very much about the characters, whereas the second part is more about the haunted happenings going on at Hundreds Hall.
However, while this might seem like a ghost story, I believe it's more about England in the 1900s and how classes were split and developed in different directions. The family at Hundreds Hall used to be part of the upper class, but after the husband's death and the son's war tragedy, the family's wealth has slowly decreased. That's when the doctor appears in their lives, and it's from his perspective we get this story.
This is a slow-going narrative, but if you give it time and patience, you will end up with quite a fascinating tale about class division, deterioration, and perhaps ghosts :)
Profile Image for Janie.
1,079 reviews
June 2, 2020
This is a slow burn of a novel, Gothic in atmosphere and steeped in personal and psychological drama. A country doctor becomes involved with a family living in a formerly grand mansion. Changing times have led the family and their domain to hardships and a chipping away of fineries. Difficulties become disruptions with unexplainable causes, and tragedies occur like wildfire. The doctor views mysteriously disturbing occurrences with the views of a scientist, but others believe that the old property and its occupants are haunted. Opinions may vary, but the fact is that this is a totally immersive read with underlying tensions and the hint of a diabolic little stranger lurking in the halls. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The ending will have a place in my imagination for a long time to come.
Profile Image for Amanda.
74 reviews3 followers
November 2, 2009
I was too busy wanting this book to be something that it wasn't, that when I realized my frustration at the narrator was Water's intent and plot strategy, I couldn't get passed my disappointment to fully enjoy what she created.

I have read similar books, which I won't mention here for fear of ruining them with the comparison, but this too may have played into my reading/opinion/frustration at The Little Stranger.

I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this book, but if you want to read a slightly chilling tale on a cold, gray, day you could do worse. But you would do better to think of this as a depressing tale told of England following WWII, with a touch of the paranormal.
Profile Image for Misha.
396 reviews679 followers
May 30, 2021
I don't have to enunciate the sheer brilliance that is Sarah Waters. Those who have read her already know it. Those who haven't need to get acquainted with her books which, I believe, are among the greatest literary works. The Little Stranger is my second favourite Sarah Waters novel after Fingersmith. In this book, the author deviates a lot from her previous works. Yet, her ability to awe remains the same.

Now imagine a huge gothic mansion, a possibly haunted mansion.Then imagine something walking up the stairs of the mansion , the pitter- patter of feet which are not very human...
I dare you to read this book and be able to sleep without lights on. Honestly, I could not!

The Little Stranger is narrated by Dr. Faraday, a local doctor in a small village of England around the 1940s. His mother was a nursery maid in Hundreds Hall, a huge mansion in the village. As a child, he was fascinated by the mansion and has fond memories of it.

"With his death, Hundreds hall withdrew even further from the world. The gates of the park were kept almost permanently closed. The solid brown stone boundary wall, though not especially high, was high enough to forbidding. And for all that the house was such a grand one, there was no spot, on any of the lanes in that part of Warwickshie, from which it could be glimpsed. I sometimes thought of it, tucked away in there, as I passed the wall on my rounds- picturing it always as it had seemed to me that day in 1919, with its handsome brick faces, and its cool marble passages, each one filled with marvellous things.'"

When he is called to Hundreds Hall to see a patient, he is shocked to see the extent of deterioration of the house. The Ayers- the owners of the Hundreds Halls were once a powerful and rich family. But they have now fallen into poverty and have barely enough money to maintain what was once a stately mansion.

"Hundreds Hall had been made and maintained, I thought, by the very people they were laughing at now. After two hundred years, those people had begun to withdraw their labour, their belief in the house; and the house was collapsing, like a pyramid of cards. Meanwhile, here the family sat, still playing gaily at gentry life, with the chipped stucco on their walls, and their Turkey carpets worn to the weave, and their riveted china..."

The Ayers family consists of the middle-aged widow, Mrs Ayers, her 27-year old daughter, Caroline, who has resigned herself to a life as a spinster and a 24-year old son, Roderick, who is now the reluctant owner of Hundreds Hall.

As Dr. Faraday becomes more closely acquainted with the family, he finds out that there are supposedly strange happenings in the house. Being a man of science, he is naturally sceptical. But things take a sinister turn, as slowly Roderick starts to lose his sanity as claims to hear and see thing that can't be explained by anything that's "natural". Strange spots appear, supposedly accidental fires, a child's voice, footsteps- as things go worse, Dr Faraday comes face to face with the reality of the horror unfolding at Hundreds Hall.

The Little Strangers is a mixture of genres. It is a psychological thriller entwined with gothic suspense/horror. Sarah Waters knows how to play with words. she creates an entire atmosphere of suspense, terror, dark secrets and malevolence that sucks you right in. I tried to tell myself that this is just a book, calm down! It didn't work. Such is the talent of this very eloquent author, that it all seemed so terrifyingly real to me, like something like this can really happen in real life.

She caught my eye and said quietly, 'Do you feel it? The house is still at last. Whatever it was that was here, it has taken everything that it wanted. And do you know what the worst thing is? The thing I shan't forgive it for? It made me help it.'

Though it may seem like a gothic horror story, The Little Stranger deals with so much more- a once wealthy family that is struggling to cling to its way of life and the complexity of relationships (between siblings and between parent-child). Kudos to Sarah Waters for scaring the living daylights out of me! The author knows how to spin a tale that guarantees that you are hooked to the book.

Like I said, The Little Stranger is completely different from any other Sarah Waters books. What remains the same is the beautiful writing, an atmospheric setting and characters that continue to haunt the reader. The Little Stranger ends with many questions. Every person will have a different perspective to what really happened at Hundreds Hall. There is no "end" as such. It's left to the readers imagination. Hundreds Hall will linger in your mind long after you have read the last page.

Compelling, haunting and highly entertaining

Yes, to fans of Sarah Waters and to people who just like a suspenseful, gripping story.

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Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,109 reviews323 followers
January 24, 2019
I picked up “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters after watching a movie based on this book. The movie was so hauntingly vague (but curiously absent on detail and suspense) , that I needed to see if the book was able to provide me answers and fill the vacancies left by the movie. Here is my first-ever (by me, anyway) version of “movie seen BEFORE the book”, review.

In post-World War Two, in rural England, Dr. Farraday is called out to Hundreds Hall, a huge, rural estate that, in its glory, had been regal and elegant but now, was slowly crumbling. Living in Hundreds Hall is the well-to-do Ayres family, led by young Roderick Ayers, recently returned from the war severely injured and disfigured. Roderick, along with his mother and sister, Caroline, are trying to maintain Hundreds Hall at its former glory, while their financial situation continues to flounder. As Dr. Farraday becomes more entwined with the Ayers’ family, horribly tragic things begin to happen, one after another, and the Ayers’ family are convinced that something paranormal is responsible.

“The Little Stranger” is part historical fiction, and part paranormal suspense. The creepy setting of the once-regal Hundreds Hall sets the stage for both a gloomy tale of a desperate family trying to keep afloat, and the possibility of a paranormal event tearing their worlds’ apart.

The characters in this novel are all devastatingly tragic, yet strong and likable. Caroline, Roderick, Betty (the maid) and Dr. Farraday all evoke empathic reactions, and I desperately wanted the best outcome for each of them.

The story is a bit of a slow burn, with long chapters, but it has its fair share of creepy gloom and intriguing suspense. As the story goes on, it drew me deeper and deeper into its plot, leading to an ending that did not provide any solid answers, and instead encouraged the reader to draw their own conclusions. Although I would’ve liked a more definitive answer for the happenings at Hundreds, I was impressed with Watters’ ability to wrap up the storyline for all of the characters in a satisfying way.

Waters is new to me, but her writing style is both unique and poetic, and she has piqued my curiosity to be sure. A creative read with a wonderfully descriptive setting and honest characters, “The Little Stranger” took me by surprise, and should not be overlooked.
Profile Image for Lotte.
559 reviews1,116 followers
July 26, 2018
I finally read a book by Sarah Waters and, even though this book had its faults, I’m so glad I did!
What I thought was going to be a pretty standard classic ghost story actually turned out to be more of a study of post-war Britain that really delves into the complexities of the downfall of a whole class system (oh, and yeah, there’s a ghost). It’s brilliantly written and very, very atmospheric, but it’s also just way too long. Many parts are overly descriptive and it felt quite repetitive on a plot level (there's so much tea drinking and sitting around talking), which isn’t always a bad thing, but felt rather counterproductive in building up suspense and mystery. If it had been cut by 100-150 pages (shortening some of the dialogue and descriptions), this would’ve easily been a a 5 star read for me, because despite its lengths I pretty much enjoyed everything else about it. The characters were complex and interesting, the writing was amazing and the mystery at the centre of it all (the eponymous Little Stranger) was especially intriguing. It’s one of those books I’d love to discuss with someone or read an academic paper about, because there’s so much to take away and interpret there and I loved how ambivalent and rich with meaning everything was kept throughout. If you’re in the mood for a lengthy read, I’d definitely recommend this, and I can’t wait to watch the movie adaptation.
Profile Image for William.
409 reviews196 followers
May 1, 2009
One of the more enjoyable aspects of Sarah Waters' slow paced (occasionally excruciatingly so) ghost novel, "The Little Stranger," is how subtle and contemplative its frights are, rather than being necessarily immediate or shocking. The ending is cleverly done – and softly done – so much so that to hint at it might ruin the question Waters finally poses; a frustrating notion since the slower tone and pace of the novel, combined with readers' preexisting expectations for what makes a good "ghost story," may be off-putting to some.

Moments come in "The Little Stranger" when the reader wonders when the novel will resemble the shock dramas he might see in a film. Considering its ending, however (despite a somewhat overused setting for the concept of confession as revelation), that same reader will likely want to revisit the novel after they've finished – to string together pieces of the ghost story, the lives of the Ayres family and friends, and the importance of a key conversation between two non-family characters. The result is a book whose final questions are as philosophical as they are, um, spiritual. It doesn't seem right to say more, but given patience and a faith in Sarah Waters' already proven abilities, "The Little Stranger" is a very rewarding, if not the most frightening, tale of spirit and soul, obsession and haunting, curse and cause.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,217 reviews1,962 followers
December 14, 2012
This is classified as a ghost story, but as a ghost story it is very unconvincing and not really very chilling; no Whistle and I'll Come To You menace here. However this is actually a really good novel which captures the zeitgeist of post war Britain in the 1940s and Waters has done her research well. The real themes are class and the decline of the landed gentry, the rise of the welfare state and the NHS.
It is less Edgar Allan Poe more Josephine Tey; it reminded me of The Franchise Affair. The themes are very similar. The narrator Dr Faraday is a doctor who tends to the residents of the Big House, the Hundreds, the Ayres family; mother, daughter and son. At one time he would have been trade; he now almost becomes a friend, even a potential suitor for the daughter, almost. It is a very English novel in its treatment of class, respectability and the inability of a certain section of the landed gentry to maintain their impossibly large and crumbling houses. There is, of course the spectre of a socialist government and death duties in the background and the encroachment of large council estates being built way too close to the hosue for comfort, on land that had to be sold to try to maintain an impossible lifestyle.
The ghost part of the story seems to be something stalking the residents of the house; possibly the ghost of a dead child, but it feels more like the dead hand of a lost Edwardian and 1920s past forever gone.
There are homages to lots of other novels. There is a touch of the Miss Havisham's about the decay of the house. The son is called Roderick (Fall of the House of Usher, I think) and of course The Turn of the Screw is recollected. There was almost a feel of Trollope in the plot construction and the interrelation of the characters and a touch of the detective story about the goings on in the house.
The story is slow to start, but on reflection, I enjoyed it, not as a ghost story, but like Night Watch, as historical novel exploring the changes Britain underwent in the 1940s
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