Review: The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger Book Cover

The Little Stranger
By Sarah Waters
Penguin Group
April 2009 (Hardback)
480pp

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

Delicious. I ate it up.

The Rest of It:

Dr. Faraday is called to care for a patient over at Hundreds Hall, an estate in various degrees of decay. Hundreds Hall used to be grand with its stunning rooms and its surrounding gardens, but the Ayres family has seen some rough times and is no longer able to keep it up.  During his call to the house, Dr. Faraday is charmed by the beauty of the house and is also quite taken with its inhabitants, Mrs. Ayres, her daughter Caroline and her son Roderick. But there is something else there as well. A darkness, a presence…something evil within the house and Dr. Faraday has no idea what he has gotten himself into.

The house is a living, breathing entity. The dreariness, the dampness, the cold… I could smell the mustiness and hear the echo of footsteps in the hallway. It’s creepy and when things are implied, yet not fully explored, you wind up holding your breath, waiting for a resolution. I suppose The Little Stranger is a ghost story, but it could just as easily be a psychological thriller depending on how you look at it. It’s perfect in that it keeps you guessing and never gives you too much at any one time.

The characters are well-drawn and fully fleshed out and this can be said for some of the lesser characters as well. The story is told from Dr. Faraday’s point of view and there is a bit of foreshadowing which I found most enjoyable. There is one part of the storyline that I had a hard time wrapping my brain around though and it had to do with the relationship between Dr. Faraday and Caroline. I didn’t buy it. However, one could argue at that point that the characters were not themselves. Thinking that, is sort of how I got past it but the relationship disturbed me a bit and I’m not really sure why.

I’m pretty sure The Little Stranger will be on my list of faves for this year.  Not so much because there was a lot of action (there wasn’t) or that I loved the characters (I didn’t) but because of how it made me feel while reading it. It was a treat, a real indulgence and I found myself dipping in and out of it as I’ve been known to do with a jar of Nutella.

I would like to discuss the ending with those who have read it, so if you’ve read it, comment below that you’ve read and I’ll take the conversation offline so we don’t list any spoilers in the replies.

Source: Borrowed from the library.

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26 thoughts on “Review: The Little Stranger”

  1. Ti, I haven’t read this one yet, but I do have it on my radar. And after reading your description of it being an indulgence and a treat to read – well, I have to acquire this book sooner rather than later. Thanks!

  2. I have heard this is the least good of the Sarah Waters books, but really, she is so good that less good is probably still better than many writers! And with both you and Sandy loving this do I really have any choice?

    1. I’ve heard the same thing so I wanted to read this one first. It was a lot like a Dicken’s novel so if you like Dickens, I imagine you’d like this one. I’m a sucker for any novel with a house as its main character.

  3. I thought the ending was brilliant – Waters had us in the palm of her hand from beginning to end. A delicious Gothic “mystery” of sorts.

  4. I’m happy to know you enjoyed this book so much. I haven’t read it yet but have it listed in various places. I have shied away from many of the reviews but read yours since you wrote “No Spoilers’ at the top of the post (Thank you!). I had no idea this was a psychological thriller, mystery, ghost story of sorts. Oooo I like that and the story sounds wonderful!
    I have one of Sarah Waters’ earlier books on my nightstand stack, The Nightwatchand hope to read it soon. I’ve peeked inside and her writing is awesome!

    1. This would be a great book to curl-up with on a cold, windy night. I don’t have her other books yet but I’ll be picking them up since I liked this one so much.

  5. Ti,

    I loved what you had to say about this one, so much so that I’ll be resisting an intense urge to switch books on my Kindle to this one at lunch today. In any event, it is sure to most likely be my nest Kindle read after finishing, A long, Long Time ago and Essentially True, by Pusulka (which is also good).

  6. I’m so glad you loved this one too! This was my first Waters book and it was a wonderful read. I see you’re also reading The Shadow of the Wind right now, love that one!

  7. I haven’t heard of this one (except when you mentioned it the other day in your post). It looks really good! I wish I could stomach scary stories. Maybe I’ll have to read it sometime when I’m on vacation, in a happy place, with a large group of people! 🙂

      1. I wasn’t spooked at all, but then I started to think about the title and it freaked me out. The idea of a little “anything” running about the place gave me the willies!

  8. I have this one on audio and have been meaning to read it. I’d heard it was scary, and I’m not really into that kind of thing. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

  9. Oh yes, reading Waters is totally like dipping into (actually rolling around in) a jar of Nutella. I immediately go into a druggish haze of happiness and comfort. They are all that way. Did I tell you I offered to bear her children? Glad you liked this one. And I’d be happy to chat about the ending. Went back several times and re-listened.

  10. when I first read this I gave it 3/5 but its been one of those books thats really played on my mind so if I rated it now I’d give 4/5. All the themes and the ending was wonderful I thought.

  11. I haven’t read this yet but have had it in my shelf for ages. I’ve heard so many good things about it including your review that I really should puck it up sooner rather than later.

  12. I’ve heard only good things about this book and reading your review gave me a little push in the right direction, that is, of reading it.

    “….because of how it made me feel while reading it.”
    That’s all I needed. Thanks. 🙂

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