Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters
Riverhead Books - Sept 2014

Set just outside of London in 1922, The Paying Guests, is a literary thriller which kept me quickly turning its 500+ pages. 

Frances Wray is a 26 year old spinster who lives with her 50-something mother in what was once a comfortable life.  Now, Mr. Wray is deceased and has left the women in his life with substantial debt.  In addition, the economy after WWI has taken a downward turn and mother and daughter  have decided to take in boarders to help with expenses and repairs needed on their home.  The couple who joins their household are Lilian and Leonard Barber.

By day Leonard works, and Lilian is staying home adjusting to life as a new wife in a new place.  Frances and her mother have plenty of adjustments as to make as well, and each walks of fine line as to being friendly to the "paying guests" and giving them the privacy and space they deserve.  The lifestyle and manners of the Barbers are a bit of a shock to the system, especially for Mrs. Wray, and at times the two feel very awkward around the Barbers even in their own home. 

When Len goes off to work and Mrs. Wray out about town during the day, Lilian and Frances spend time getting to know one another and become confidants. Frances is a lesbian who had recently ended a relationship with a woman because of family obligations. She feels comfortable enough to tell Lilian about this relationship hoping she will not think any less of her.  Yet with each new day Frances finds herself attracted to the young woman and she does her best try to go about her daily activities in spite of these feelings.  

For the first 200 pages or so the author builds the tension as the reader is getting to know the "paying guests" and how the lives of the Wrays are impacted with their arrival and sharing a home together. The second section ratchets up the tension even more with the turn of each page as Lilian and Frances relationship develops into something more than friendship. The added tension and some shocking violence add to the overall psychological drama. The final section deals with an investigation and trial with an ending that left me satisfied.

Sarah Waters knows how create a suspenseful novel. The time period and characters came alive on the page.  I can't say that I liked any of the characters, but I did feel like I was right there watching the happenings firsthand.  This is a story has it all - forbidden love, scandal and crime.  I was hooked early on and invested until the end.  This is sure to make my list of favorites list for 2014 - Read It!

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy finely crafted historical crime fiction.

5/5 stars
(review copy )

19 comments:

  1. I love Sarah Waters and this book is on my list to read. Sounds like a good one.

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  2. I'm really looking forward to reading this one -- she's such a good craftswoman.

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  3. Adding to my wish list immediately!

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  4. I've been seeing this one around a lot lately...am waiting to see a few reviews before deciding if I want to read it.

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  5. Wow, this one sounds very intense...and I really liked the part about how the author "ratchets up the tension." Definitely more than just a story about boarders! Thanks for sharing...and I'm adding it to my list.

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  6. I'm looking forward to this book because I've heard so much about Waters' writing.

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  7. Five outta five sounds terrific!

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  8. I'm a huge fan of Sarah Waters so I'll definitely be adding this one to my must-read list. Great review and so happy to hear it was a 5 star read!

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  9. I've recently become interested in stories set in the 20s. I'm not sure the genre is for me but, I'd enjoy the setting and the time period.

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  10. I love Sarah Waters and have to put this one right away on my TBR list. Reading your review reminded me why I love her writing so much.

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  11. I've never read this author but I would like to. This book sounds good! Thank you!

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  12. This sounds really interesting and I've heard great things abou this author. Great review! I'm definitely adding it to my wishlist.

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  13. So glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much - I'm looking forward to it!

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  14. I won't forget how much I enjoyed Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger a few autumns ago. I've wanted to read this one, because she does have a most excellent way of telling a story.

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  15. I'm so glad you loved it! I have a copy staring at me from my bookshelf -- from LibraryThing.

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  16. I've been hearing good review of this novel, and yours clinches it! Sounds like I need to read it - thanks for the great review.

    Sue

    Book By Book

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  17. I just received a copy of this book, and I look forward to it. Jennifer Conner at Literate Housewife is having a read a long with the Sarah Waters book Fingersmith in Oct. I plan to participate. Great review.

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