Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Little Stranger Read-a-long - Part 1 checkin

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 -

Since this is a read-along, Andi at The Estella Society has some discussion questions, and I'm mostly going to follow along with those. I have to say I am really enjoying the read-along aspect of this, as well as the audiobook version. Simon Vance is the perfect narrator for this story, and he has given me chills on more than one occasion.

How are you liking the book? Can you read it at night?

I have to admit I started to get a little.....frustrated? at first. The story just seemed to be moving S o o o 
s l o w l y. I couldn't figure out when the "scary" part was going to finally show up. And then I remembered that I had the same feeling with the other Sarah Waters novels I'd read, and I wound up really enjoying them, so I pressed on. And THEN! Holy cow. Things started to get creepy. I mostly listen on my commutes to and from work, and when I'm cleaning something - I don't think I would try to climb into bed with this one!

What do you think about what’s going on? It starts mundanely enough, doesn’t it? A simple country doctor, taken with a home and family. Can’t you feel the want radiating off him? He wants this life so badly.

Mundane is exactly the word. Even Waters' descriptions of her characters are so average - these people are not the rich, beautiful people by any means. Faraday is just such a good guy, and his yearning to be part of this house and its family is almost painful at times. And no matter what he does, he can't quite break completely into their lives. I have felt a few times that Caroline would let him in - that she wants him almost as much as he wants them. But he is quite clearly not of their "class", and those rules are still too ingrained for them to break free.

What do you think of the Ayres family? Do you pity them in their fall from the top?

I feel sorry for Caroline and Rod - I don't think they really ever had a chance at a normal life. I don't think their parents did them any favors in their upbringing, and the efforts they've made to break free have been thwarted. They can certainly be arrogant and classist, but I think in general they are doing the best they can.

It's an interesting novel as a horror text, but the farther I get into it the intertwined relationships are clearly the glue that holds it together. I am, of course, curious about who is "The Little Stranger" - I have a couple of ideas, but will be interested to see who it turns out to be. This is a good one - thanks for hosting the read-along, Andi!


Kristen M. said...

You guys are all making me want to reread this book right now! I hope you enjoy the rest. :)

Zibilee said...

I have heard that Simon Vance is a great narrator, and I love Waters a bit obsessively! I can't wait to find out what you guys think about this one eventually!

Andi said...

Soooo glad you're participating, Eli!!!! And I'm curious what your thoughts will be when we're done. :D

Chinoiseries said...

I didn't know that Simon Vance had recorded an audiobook of this! How has he done so far? Is the creepiness coming across? I pity the Ayres kids too, they deserved a nicer life. If only they could sell up and start over.

Kristi said...

I've been listening to the audio book too and have really enjoyed it. It is a bit slow, but I didn't mind. I guess I disliked the Ayres a bit more than you did. I didn't find much to like about Rodrick. Hope you're enjoy the rest.

nrlymrtl said...

I also listened to the Simon Vance audio version. I think he did a great job, as usual. He really put the longing into Faraday's voice. But I also feel that Rod and Caroline have a deep longing too - perhaps for the love of their mother, perhaps for lives of their own.