The setting is post WWI London, experiencing post traumatic stress; the characters are from the upper and the "clerk" classes; the plot is reminiscent of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment."
The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home..." Named a 2014 best book!
I read this book over two years ago, but I continue to think about it on a regular basis. Sarah Waters is a mastermind when it comes to compelling stories and richly detailed historical fiction. Her writing style is so lush and well-researched, you almost feel as if you are a time traveler! If you have yet to read any of her works, this is a great place to start.
Started out as a charming, old-fashioned story, but then introduced a lesbian theme. Really? Does every book today have to have overt sex (gay or hetero) in it? Just ruined the book for me. Too bad, because it had potential. I'm not against relationships in a book when appropriate for the storyline, but this seemed so contrived. Disappointing.
Great book with wonderful characters. Gives the reader a glimpse of life in England after the first world war. The subject may not be for all readers. It's an unconventional love story....and a thriller. Highly recommend.
I found it to be a dreary story about dreary people with too many words. Like many other readers I think it could have been edited to a more manageable length.
There should have been serious editing done to this book!! The actual story line wasn't bad, but there were many unnecessary details and descriptions that didn't even pertain to the story. I would have given it a better rating if she had cut about 100 pages out of the book.
I found this book entertaining and engrossing, but I am interested in the time period, between the World Wars and how people lived then. The murder mystery part of it was almost too intense for me, but I am not much into thrillers
I liked this book but it could have had about half the pages deleted and still have been an effective and engaging story. It needed some good editing. Still, I did enjoy it...especially the ending!
I did not enjoy this tedious book at all. The writing was pretty, but the plot was dull and tired. I skipped pages and pages at a time just to get through it.
Even with many of the main characters that do not stand up as being honorable, this is an excellent book. The post WWI setting in England is part of its charm.
What a tedious read. Plot was slow moving, the characters flat and unlikable. Scenes appear to be inserted just to fill pages, not to move the story along and the prose is laden with long strings of adjectives. Fluffy, verbose drudgery like the author was getting paid by the word. In the end I could not finish.
I really enjoyed this book. It is brilliantly descriptive and gives us a slice of life back in the mid 1920's. Very well and beautifully done.
I was not really taken by this book, although there are a lot of good things about it.
It has Sarah Waters’ characteristic awareness of the roles of women and class in society, with its focus on an upper middle class lesbian in 1920s England. Written as an interior narrative, it shows the point of view of Frances, an anti-war lesbian of a privileged middle class, supporting her mother in reduced circumstances after the death of her brothers in the War and her father in its aftermath. She feels the personal loss, but also the social changes that the war has brought to England. Both of these changes are reflected in the fact of having to do her own housekeeping and take in boarders after she and her mother can no longer afford servants to maintain their large house. Nevertheless, she expects and receives deference from lower orders such as the police, and is conscious of the difference between her family and her boarders, who are of the rising “clerk class” but who are rooted in the even lower retail trades and manual workers.
Waters also gives a strong sense of time and place, with Frances and her mother struggling to adapt to their restricted financial and social circumstances. From Waters’ concrete details of housekeeping chores, I can appreciate much more the work that goes into maintaining a household before modern appliances, and Waters’ concrete details, such as the path to the outdoor privy, will stay with me. She also shows clearly the life of a young educated woman living in London in the early-1920s. The language and point of view are an insight to the times, and seem to me to be quite apt.
Waters also turns around the conventional police novel by showing the events of an investigation from the point of view of one of the subjects of the investigation. While the police do their slow, careful work, Frances knows what the truth is, and she agonizes about what they will discover. Her emotions as she is part of the investigation, and then in the subsequent trial are drawn out in exquisite detail – so detailed that the reader can feel the tedium and the crazy desperation of just wanting to get through it and waiting for it to end.
It’s interesting to see Waters’ portrayal of the Frances’ life as a lesbian – she feels no moral ambiguity, just some natural fearfulness. She knows the social consequences of coming out in the 1920s, as well as the condemnation she will face from her mother. Nevertheless, she secretly maintains her friendship with a former lover and her lover’s new partner, and when she is drawn to her new upstairs boarder, she joyfully seduces and initiates her into an emotional and sexual relationship. The detailed interior description of Frances’ growing connection is very natural, with its hopes and contradictions.
Unfortunately, I just did not find Frances a very interesting person. The story was fine as long as it was showing new details about the society of post-war London. But the despondent moping as Frances tries to figure out what to do about her relationship and then the investigation begin to seem endless. She struggles within her limited point of view, but sees no way out (probably a realistic assessment). We never get to see anyone else’s point of view, which might restore some interest. With a few hundred pages to go, I was counting down to the end of the book, hoping something would happen to pick things up. Possibly Waters wanted her readers to experience the frustration and tedium of Frances’ situation, but it just gets to be too much, for me at least.
I like Sarah Waters, and will read her again, but I don’t think I could go back to this book.
1922 – Ex-servicemen – the out-of-work – the hungry – change is demanded. And in South London . . . life is about to be altered as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances begin to house lodgers. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life – secrets confessed – a crime story that is also a love story – nail-biting tension – a compelling read.
When Frances Wray and her mother are no longer able to pay for the upkeep of their large home they are forced to take in boarders. When Lillian and Leonard Barber move in, life changes in a big way for Frances. Circumstances lead to forbidden love, murder and moral crisis. Not having read a synopsis of the story before listening to it, nearly every thing that happened was a surprise/shock. A great story, beautifully told and very true to the time. One of the best I've read this year.
I really enjoyed this beautiful, well-written work of historical fiction. The issues of class and feminism that Waters weaves into the storytelling, set in the context of 1922 London, are fascinating. Wonderful character development and some unexpected plot twists. While I enjoyed the entire novel, I think the first part, focusing on character development and historical setting, was my favorite.
I really liked this book. The characters develop well and you're left not really sure you're actually rooting for the main characters. The interesting plot mixed with the sense of dread created by the details, characters kept me turning the pages.
Definitely do not recommend this book. I had to return it after reading less than half. I was disgusted by the love scenes. They had no place in what would otherwise have been a pleasant historical fiction novel.
A year or so ago Sarah Waters was recommended to me, specifically The Little Stranger, and I was unable to finish it. I was engaged a bit more with this one but it was still a struggle. Waters is a very atmospheric and descriptive author, which is something I have no problem with but having to get through 250 odd pages before something actually happens that isn't a description or a repetition is a bit much to ask.
There are three parts to this. The first can basically be described as when Frances (twenty something spinster with a past who lives with her mom) met Lillian (who takes up lodging in Frances' house with her husband Leonard). The second is complications and the third is the mystery heralded by the dust jacket. So we're looking at about 300 pages per part and I can't help but feel it could have been edited down a bit. Frances frequently ends up in repetitive musings and I found myself utterly devoid of any caring about what happened to any of them. A shame, really, since it is rather well written for the first 250 pages it was engaging - it just a matter that by the time anything started to happen I was past caring.
Waters does a good job evoking post-WW I London in the 1920s and, as in her other novels, is excellent at creating tension. However, this book is too long and without surprises. The best aspect is the way in which she deals with the British class system.
Beautifully written with an eye for detail, I started out entranced with the story of a woman and her mother forced to take in lodgers to survive after discovering upon their father's death that they were gravely in debt. But as the story turned towards a shrill romance, I got bored with the characters.
Didn't love it as much as "Tipping the Velvet," but found it hard to put down.
This is easily one of my favorite books I've read all year. It's set in 1920s London, and the historical backdrop has clearly been painstakingly researched; not a single note feels out-of-place, and Waters does a good job at capturing the air of post-war restlessness. The novel follows a formerly wealthy young woman in reduced economic circumstances who is forced to take on lodgers of a lower social class; her relationship with the two lodgers, a married couple, is at the heart of the novel. The characters are so well-developed, so real, that it's hard to remember they're fictional at times; at the same time, this is more than a mere character study, with a plot that will keep you turning pages late into the night. I don't want to give too much away about the plot, but this was truly a fantastic read, and totally worthy of all the acclaim it's received.
An extraordinary character study combined with a true page turner, all 564 of them. I have put in a request for The LIttle Stranger to read next. A compelling read that remains with you. 4 1/2 stars in my book!