The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Publication Year: 2009
Date Completed: 4/4/2011
Rating: 4/5 stars
A crumbling old manor house in a small Warwickshire, England town is the setting for creepy, atmospheric story, which takes place just after World War II. The story is narrated by Doctor Faraday, who was familiar with the once grand, Hundred's Hall from his childhood days. Now the Ayre family fortune has vanished, the family has been selling off parcels of land, and Hundreds Hall has fallen into a state of disrepair. The place is still inhabited by the elderly Mrs. Ayre, her son Roderick, a twenty-something, who was wounded during the war, and Caroline an older, plain-Jane, still unmarried, daughter. Once the place bustled with servants, which even included Doctor Faraday's own mother. Now Betty, a young girl in her teens, is the only servant that remains.
Doctor Faraday is called to Hundred's Hall to tend to Betty, the servant who is sick with some type of stomach ailment. It appears that she might just be homesick, but something is certainly upsetting her. Soon after he returns to the house and begins treating Roderick, from the physical and psychological aftereffects of war, using some sort of electrical therapy. Before long his return visits to the old manor are more frequent, and it is clear that Faraday's interest in Caroline have turned to thoughts of romance.
Little by little strange happenings at the crumbling mansion are becoming more frequent. The family dog, always gentle, attacks a young girl visiting, and the dog is later put to sleep. Then there is a suspicious fire, objects move by themselves, writing appears on walls, and Roderick psychological state worsens. There are more strange happenings, however I don't want to spoil the story for those of you who have not read this one yet.
The story starts off a bit slow, but I never lost interest. The author knows how to set the stage for maximum creep effect. The characters are well developed and strange in their own way. I really loved the fact that the "house", took on a major role of its own. I wasn't sure about the ending at first, but the more I thought about it, I felt satisfied. This Gothic gem is different from the two other Water's books that I read and enjoyed: Fingersmith, and Tipping the Velvet, but very good in it's own way. It's the perfect, atmospheric book to read of damp, rainy day. It would make a great book club discussion book as well.