The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger
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The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, its owners - mother, son and daughter - struggling to keep pace. 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 entwined with his.

Review

This disquieting psychological thriller from the author of Fingersmith and The Night Watch revolves around a shabby genteel English family disintegrating in the post-war years. The local doctor, whose parents were once servants in the big house, narrates the story, as he becomes intimately involved with the Ayres family after a routine house-call renews his boyhood fascination with their home. But the main character is the house itself, both lovingly and eerily evoked, a symbol not only of the family, but of the country-wide post-war decline of the English gentry. ‘One could see so painfully … both the glorious thing it had recently been and the ruin it was on its way to becoming.’

As the inhabitants of the house are increasingly plagued by menacing taps, knocks, scribblings and shadows; as they recoil from the threat of ‘ordinary things’ like a mysteriously ringing telephone and a mirror that seems to move, both the doctor and the reader areforced to wonder: is the menace supernatural, psychological, or a strange blend of both? Oddly terrifying, thought-provoking and overwhelmingly character driven, this gripping novel beautifully dramatises the uncertain angst of a changing world.

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