Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Tessa Bright Wildsmith

“The Little Stranger” opens innocently enough but soon dives into a dark, haunted house and the dark, haunted family that lives there.

Life-long bachelor Dr. Faraday has built a cozy, respectable life as a country doctor in the town of Warwickshire in England.

Though he drives by the mansion Hundreds Hall several times a week on house calls, he has given very little thought to the mansion and the Ayres family that still lives there. When he is called to the house to treat a maid, he has no idea that his life is going to become dangerously tangled with that of the recluse Ayres. Things for the doctor will never be the same.

Faraday is introduced to the still-elegant Mrs. Ayres, her natural spinster daughter Caroline, and the WWII veteran son Roderick who now oversees the estate and the farm. He develops a fondness for the family, and a friendship is formed. Over the next several months, Faraday grows closer to the family - visiting often just for a chance to see the beautiful old home. He also feels a need to reach out and help the family. It is 1940s England, and the days of old families, old wealth and mansion estates are fading fast. The family is constantly trying to keep their heads above water with the expansive estate to run.

The supernatural trouble begins after Caroline’s sweet-natured lab, Gyp, bites a young girl at a dinner party. There’s no explanation for the dog’s violent behavior. He has always been gentle and mild-mannered until now. Mental illness, fire, suicide and worse follow the initial attack until the book ends with a devastating conclusion.

This is the second book by Waters that I have read recently. As I did with “Fingersmith,” I found myself pleasantly surprised by the way the author can paint a deep, realistic picture with words. In “The Little Stranger,” she describes things with such detail that the space between the reader and the characters seems to disappear.

I did not enjoy this book as much as the first Waters book I read. One of the main characters, Caroline, annoyed me toward the end of the book. Her character was well developed and complex. It definitely wasn’t the writing. I just didn’t like her personally.

Though I did enjoy “The Little Stranger,” I have to say overall I was a little underwhelmed. It wasn’t laced with plot twists and surprises at every turn. I will admit to having high expectations for this book, which could have enhanced my disappointment. “The Little Stranger” was very well written, and Waters has an incredible gift of story telling. My disappointment shouldn’t discourage anyone from picking up this dark, interesting, original story.

Have you read “The Little Stranger?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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