A Bookaholic, Pro-life, Pro-Family, Pro-Oxford Comma, Catholic (with Asperger's) who reads and writes as her obsession. I've been reading over 400 books a year lately. These are my ramblings on some of the books I read. To read about all the books I read and comment on, visit me at LibraryThing or Goodreads.

I've been blogging since 2007 and at this point (July 2015) am trying my hand at turning the theme of this blog towards mystery, thriller, and crime, fiction and nonfiction. I have some special interest topics and categories within this broad genre which include (but are not limited to) serial killers, scandi-crime, Victorian history and historicals, history of the criminally insane and asylums, psychopathology, death, funerary practices and burial, corpses, true crime and anything dealing with the real life macabre, or that portrayed in fiction.

I also read a short story a day from various collections, sometimes anthologies othertimes collections of a single author's work. These reviews are also posted here and while they are of mixed genre the mystery, thriller, horror, gothic and macabre often appear within their pages as well.

I also blog about
graphic novels and manga on a separate BLOG.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

100. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

First of all let's all say a great big "YAHOO!" for book #100 of 2009!!! I didn't dare even suggest I might make 200 books this year but it's not even half over yet, so at this rate ..... {who knows?}

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Pages: 466
Ages: 18+
Finished: May 26, 2009
First Published: Apr. 30, 2009
Genre: Gothic, historical fiction
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old.

Reason for Reading: Sarah Waters had a new book out! Need I say more! I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Comments: The Ayres family have lived at Hundreds Hall since the early-mid 1700s and now in post-war times (WWII) there remain three family members, one live-in servant and one half-time servant under its roof. During the war, they did their part for the war effort giving their rooms over to soldiers, their land over to the army for its use, their silver for melting, their furs, woolens, linens, etc for cutting apart and making clothing, handing down clothing they didn't need for those left without homes after the bombings and now that the war is over they have little left. Mrs. Ayres, in her fifties, not old by any means, seems old as she belongs to a different generation and the children try to keep the facts of their penury from her. Roderick, returns from the war a cripple and after recovering from his wounds tries to keep the dairy farm and the estate running for his mother's sake even if it kills him. Caroline is called home from the WRENs to nurse her brother through the long recovery from his injuries at his homecoming and then settles down to help with the estate; a robust, active, yet plain woman she is many years past the expected age of marrying yet she still hopes and now she can be found either in the kitchen with the women help or out on the land helping out the dairy farmer. But this is nothing especially special about the Ayres family, this is a situation that a geat many of the landed gentry of England found themselves in post WWII and the only way they managed to survive was to sell off the land piece by agonizing piece.

What makes the Ayres special is Hundreds Hall itself. Naturally without the money, the manpower or the resources it is falling to pieces and slowly crumbling around them. Most rooms have been completely closed off and more and more are closed off each season but that is not it either. Upon the new live-in maid's arrival she immediately falls ill of a stomach ache and confides in the doctor that something bad is in the house. He tells her she is homesick and not to be silly. The other maid eventually becomes aware of a presence causing trouble in her kitchen. Roderick is found many times bumped and bruised in the night and he claims someone is moving large pieces of furniture in his room. In fact Roddie starts having many unexplained, even dangerous, episodes. Mrs. Ayres is not herself anymore. She has heard voices and seems to be living in the past. Caroline herself is looking at books on Poltergeists and Phantasms in the library. While the Doctor is trying to cope with everyone's mental state he finds out first hand that there are some things that no matter how much he tries to explain them away reasonably, he knows what he has seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears and can't quite shake the feeling. Has an old family madness caught up with them all? Is there a ghost in the house? A poltergeist perhaps? Or maybe, it is that the house itself is evil?

This is something a little different for Waters. I've only read Fingersmith myself so far but I've read plot summaries of the others and feel confident in saying this is not her usual comfort zone. I loved the time period and the look inside the lives of post war gentry, while the doctor who comes from a poor background adds contrast to the two different ways of life even in hard times. There is a romance between the doctor and one of the female characters that slowly develops during the book and doesn't really come to a head until near the end of the book but it is an element that keeps the story on a basic plot, the relationship between the two, as all the madness is going on sometimes taking over the plot but always returning to that basic thread; which holds the book together well in my opinion. In fact, it is the ending of this book that infuriated me. It did not end the way I had expected and I was quite shocked with the outcome and actually quite annoyed that things ended up the way they did. I've had time to recuperate now, but that is the sign of good characterization, when a book's characters mean so much to you that you are invested in them and want all to end well for them all. When a book can make you get mad at it, because you are on the charaters' side that's when I know I've just read a brilliant book.

Sarah Waters is a brilliant storyteller. Right from page one I was dragged into her world and could not escape. I read this book much more quickly than I would another book of the same page length. I took it everywhere with me and could not stop reading. Comparing it to Fingersmith, it didn't have as many twist and turns and excitement but then it is a different type of book. This is an atmospheric book and a splendidly well-crafted ghost story. Enjoy!


  1. I have heard such wonderful things about Sarah Waters books. I really need to read one. This one sounds very good. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Great review, Nicola.

  2. Congratulations on 100 books!

  3. I have not read anything by Sarah Waters, but if you are so happy when she comes out with a new book, it sounds like I'd better give her a try!

  4. I didn't actually read your review, because I just got my book yesterday, and am anxiously waiting to get started. I'm enjoying this buildup, and I can't wait!

    wow, 100? that's amazing.

  5. Congrats on 100 books!

    I really want to read this. Maybe next week...

  6. Congrats on 100 books, Nicola! A few weeks ago I hadn't heard anything about Sarah Waters, but now I'm seeing her name pop up all over the place! I just picked up Fingersmith on Friday and can't wait to read it. I'll keep this in mind for when I've finished--"brillant storyteller" definitely has my attention!

  7. I have never read a book by Sarah Waters. I think I might have to remedy that! This one sounds fantastic! Great review!!

    Congrats on 100 books! I'm really impressed. I'll be lucky to make 75 by the end of the entire year!

  8. Congrats on 100 books! I have this and Fingersmith on my TBR.

  9. Congratulations on 100 books! That is terrific.

    Great review, too - I really need to read something by Waters.

  10. Looking forward to this one; great post!