Monday, September 17, 2012

The Little Stranger Read-along - wrapup post

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

published 2010

audiobook - read by Simon Vance

Synopsis from publisher:

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to see a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the once grand house is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its garden choked with weeds. All around, the world is changing, and the family is struggling to adjust to a society with new values and rules.

Roddie Ayres, who returned from World War II physically and emotionally wounded, is desperate to keep the house and what remains of the estate together for the sake of his mother and his sister, Caroline. Mrs. Ayres is doing her best to hold on to the gracious habits of a gentler era and Caroline seems cheerfully prepared to continue doing the work a team of servants once handled, even if it means having little chance for a life of her own beyond Hundreds.

But as Dr. Faraday becomes increasingly entwined in the Ayreses' lives, signs of a more disturbing nature start to emerge, both within the family and in Hundreds Hall itself. And Faraday begins to wonder if they are all threatened by something more sinister than a dying way of life, something that could subsume them completely.

    My thoughts:   Spoilers Ahead!!!

Alright, reality check time - by the end of this book, Dr. Faraday was just a creeper. I started out thinking he was basically a good guy, but he just got stranger and stranger, more and more controlling, and by the end all I wanted was for Caroline to break free from his obsessive manipulations and get the heck out! 

 I think the Little Stranger was Faraday. And honestly, I didn't think that until the very end, but taking the book as a whole, I think it makes sense. He was always obsessed with the house, wishing he could have it for his own. None of the Ayres' troubles started until he started going to the house. He and Dr. Sealy have that whole conversation about how some sort of psychic projection that desires the house could be taking over, trying to oust its inhabitants. He is the epitome of an unreliable narrator - for heaven's sake, we never even know his name! And at the end of the novel, he says that when he looks for the Stranger at Hundreds, all he sees is himself. 

 I think in the end, Caroline saw him and could only think to get away from him - probably throwing herself off the staircase because she couldn't see any other way of getting rid of him.  I think the only reason she agreed to marry him in the first place was because she was so desparate to get out of a house that she thought was trying to kill her - once she realized he had no plans to leave, she knew she had to break off their ties. Then, when she saw him - or an apparition of him, or something - that last night, she thought the only way she could ever be free - both of the house and of him - was to kill herself.

 I'm still deciding whether or not I liked the book - either way, it's a masterful novel, well written and chilling. This was a great read-along, Andi - thanks for hosting! 

 Finished: 9/16/12
 Source: audiobook from publich library
MPAA Rating: PG-13
My rating: ??? I'm still considering this one...  


Kelly TheWellReadRedhead said...

This book sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the review!

Andi said...

It is a thought-inducing book eh?? I tend to dig unreliable narrators so I looooved Dr. Faraday's creeperness, though I certainly did want to kick him throughout the book. I agree that he's The Little Stranger -- or a manifestation/symbol of all the class conflict going on. Creepy!

Zibilee said...

I can't wait to read this one. I love unreliable narrators, and the fact that this one is written by one of my favorite authors is pulling me towards it faster. I can totally understand that feeling of not knowing whether or not you loved it. Great review today, Elizabeth!

Chinoiseries said...

I'm just now coming to grips that Faraday could very well be the Little Stranger. I guess the book annoyed me so much that I was too blinded to see that. But yes, it makes sense: Caroline only sort of consented to marry him when he started talking about moving to London and perhaps it is his projection she sees before she plummets to her death? :/

Kristi said...

I guess I didn't make the connection of Faraday as The Little Stranger. He is definitely unreliable. I kept wondering if somehow he was actually in the house that night she died.

The ending has given me much to think about, but I too am not really sure how to rate it. There were things I loved, but things that annoyed me. Waters' writing was excellent though. I'll give her that.

nrlymrtl said...

I too was surprised by how controlling and obsessive Faraday got to be by the end of the book. That fight Caroline has with him - where he throws the ring - I felt my heart breaking a little for each of them.

I had wondered if Caroline had jumped or if the apparition pushed her while she was fleeing.