The Little Stranger

The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review refers to the audio version.

what a creepy, creepy book.

ever had a house that just felt–well–off to you? or are there streetcorners you don’t like to pass? gone past the scene of a days-previous murder and felt a shock of horror?

if not, you have an underactive amygdala.

for the rest of us, however, a creepy tale is still a bit of indescribable treat. this one is a whole buffet of treats.

Hundreds Hall is falling apart. in postwar england, there’s not a lot of spare money floating around to fix it, either. the Ayres family–dame, daughter, and son–are patching and cleaning and selling off an occasional meadow when they must, however, doing their best to keep it standing. and they’re not doing great, but they’re hanging in there.

until Dr Faraday comes to see to a minor illness of the maid.

the fun of this book is in trying to figure out whether all the subsequent mental breakdown, Hall-related damage, footsteps on the ceiling, mysterious scorch marks, and creeping paranoia are reality-based, alternate-reality based, ghost-based, or something even more sinister.

the parallel to the Hall’s disintegration is the breakdown of the landed gentry post-WWII, and that aspect too is treated quite deliciously as council houses get built within sight of the Hall, people fail to address the Ayres’ with “due” deference, and the social substrate that held up the Great Houses slinks away. the Ayres’ themselves are thoroughly sympathetic characters, however, for the most part, so the story never degenerates into mere target-shooting.

which is a good thing, because when Bad Things Happen to Good Gentry, you really feel it.

thoroughly worth a read. the audio version is also wonderfully done.

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