The Paying Guests

The Paying Guests

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa - a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants - life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the "clerk class," the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances's life - or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction, and here she has delivered again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place, The Paying Guests is Sarah Waters's finest achievement yet.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), 2014.
ISBN: 9781594633119
Branch Call Number: WATERS S
Characteristics: 566 pages ; 24 cm


Featured Blogs and Events

From Oyster Girls to Pickpockets: Reading All of Sarah Waters’s Books

I have been having a love affair with Sarah Waters’s books, since even before I actually read any of her novels. As an undergrad, I worked in a little bookstore, and during my shifts I would drift around, waiting for customers, waiting for my next class, passing the time by trailing my fingers along the spines of all the books I knew I just had to read. One particular book appealed to me… (more)

The Rules and the Exceptions

I’m a natural-born rule follower. If there’s a rule in place, it almost never occurs to me to ask why it’s there or whether it’s worth following; it’s a rule, so unless it’s a pile of ethical garbage, I’m probably going to follow it. My preference for strong, clear guidelines in all things (Obligers, am I right?) even bleeds over into my reading habits. I’ll often set rules for myself about wh... (more)

View All Staff Blog Posts »

From Library Staff

LPL_KimberlyL Sep 28, 2017

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 yo... Read More »

If you like this doorstop novel's suspense, romance, and historical detail...

Having lost two sons to the Great War, an English mother and daughter, down on their luck, rent out the upstairs of their once grand mansion to a lower class couple, a decision that ends in scandal and murder.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 14, 2021

Loved it. Exactly the kind of book I was looking for. I have a new found love of Sarah Waters. The ending could have been just a bit more succinct.

Dec 06, 2020

One of the "Five Best" in the 12/5/20 WSJ - topic "British Literary Murders"

Jul 31, 2020

The info about the story was intriguing so I started listening the the audio book. Now that there is a lesbian relationship i am finding it very difficult to continue. I know there is nothing wrong with that But I am no longer enjoying the story. Am not interested in their sexual tension. If there is a crime or further tension to the story it will have to remain to me unknown.

Feb 19, 2020

It's a very good book, it is, but somehow, after reading it, whenever I think about it, I feel this odd sense of unease. It's very good, I said that already, but again, kind of leaves the reader with a sort of uneasy, vaguely repulsed, feeling. Read it, it's masterfully written, but...

ArapahoeJohanna Jul 24, 2018

As a fan of Sarah Water's earlier books, I was a little disappointed in this one. Her writing style is gorgeous as always, but these characters were less compelling than I would have expected from her. The book is claustrophobic, taking place almost entirely in a small townhouse in 1930's London. A woman and her mother are forced to take in lodgers to make ends meet, making their home feel crowded and small, and this feeling permeates the entire book. The entire relationship between the two women takes place within those walls, with their respective mother and husband sometimes just a wall away. It was beautifully written but difficult to read.

Jan 20, 2018

In my opinion, the book is too long, author describes almost in every little detail day after day life of the main character. Although there are some really tense moments. There is a feeling that this book is written by a woman, as it seems to me, not only because an author is a woman, but because a souch tightness in descriptions of woman's love feelings, can be expressed only by woman who lived those feelings.
There is a love relationship between two women, and their struggle in overcoming all possible obstacles, including a crime.
The ending didn't impress me.

ArapahoeStaff26 Dec 14, 2017

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!

LPL_KimberlyL Sep 28, 2017

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.

Aug 11, 2017

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.

Aug 24, 2016

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.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Jul 02, 2019

Gardenersa2 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Aug 07, 2015

amnahas thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Quote
Dec 30, 2014

"But the end, Frances wanted to say, was impossible to imagine. It was like the idea that one would grow old, when one was thrumming with youth; like the knowledge that one would die, when one felt full to one's fingertips with life."


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at LPL

To Top