The Little Stranger
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.
Both a nuanced evocation of 1940s England and the most chill-inducing novel of psychological suspense in years, The Little Stranger confirms Sarah Waters as one of the finest and most exciting novelists writing today.
READ AN EXCERPT
I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district. The event was an Empire Day fête: I stood with a line of other village children making a Boy Scout salute...
1. Faraday describes Hundreds Hall early in the novel as “blurred and slightly uncertain—like an ice . . . just beginning to melt in the sun” . How does this description set the tone for the story to come? How is the physical structure of Hundreds Hall reminiscent of an age past?
— Publisher’s Weekly “Pick of the Week” (starred review)
“Waters pulls such a sensational sleight of hand that you can get to the last page of this novel, sigh contentedly, and immediately turn to the first page and begin reading a story that resonates in a completely different register…. Delightfully eerie…. A welcome addition to the Waters canon, confirming her place as one of the best of our contemporary historical novelists.”
— The Gazette (Montreal)
“A full-on, down-the-hatches ghost story…. Hundreds Hall is as much a characters as any of the humans in the book, animated by Waters’ masterful, highly visual descriptions…. If you read only one ghost story this summer, make it this one.”
— The Toronto Star
“This novel belongs in an 18th-century tradition, the Gothic line … timeless.”
— The Globe and Mail
“Closer to Henry James than Stephen King…. Waters is a great stylist and a master storyteller.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“A deliciously creepy tale … haunted by the spirits of Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe…. A ghost story as intelligent as it is stylish…. [Faraday] calls to mind Patricia Highsmith’s clever psychopath, Tom Ripley…. Waters has made old bones dance again.”
— Washington Post
“Completely absorbing [and] full of mystery…. At the end of the book, Waters delivers a real shock…. Hundreds Hall is a pretty gloomy place, but I was thrilled to spend time there, under the guidance of this supremely gifted storyteller.”
“Sarah Waters has renewed a chilling genre. Just don't read her new book in the house on your own at night.”
— Evening Standard
“Terrific…. [Waters] tells a story like no one else.”
— NOW magazine
“Masterly, enthralling…. Waters has managed to write a near-perfect gothic novel while at the same time confidently deploying the form into fresher territory. It’s an astonishing performance, right down to the book’s mournful and devastating final sentence.”
“A stunning ghost story that nurtures Turn of the Screw–style ambiguities.”
— TimeOut New York
“The spookiest book I've read in a long time…. The ending is perfect, leaving just enough to the imagination, and sending echoes back through all that has come before.”
— Columbus Post-Dispatch
“A classic gothic page-turner.”
— USA Today
“Sarah Waters is an excellent, evocative writer, and this is an incredibly gripping and readable novel.”
— The New York Times
“Waters has yet again written a classic thriller, styled as a classic thriller. It can be only a matter of time before a latter-day Hitchcock turns it into a film.”
— The Independent
“Waters’s masterly novel is a perverse hymn to decay, to the corrosive power of class resentment as well as the damage wrought by the war…. She deploys the vigour and cunning one finds in Margaret Atwood’s fiction. She has the same narrative ease and expansiveness, and the same knack of twisting the tension tighter and tighter within an individual scene.”
— Hilary Mantel, in The Guardian
“Waters is clearly at the top of her game, with few to match her ability to bring the past to life in a fully imagined world.”
— Tracy Chevalier, in The Guardian
“Two novels under one cover. One of these is a shrewd and highly readable social history of the late 1940s… [the other] is a classic ghost story of the haunted house, Edgar Allan Poe variety.”
— Fay Weldon, in The Financial Times
“Again displaying her remarkable flair for period evocation, Waters re-creates back-water Britain just after the second world war with atmospheric immediacy.”