Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters' Booker-prize-nominated latest is a commentary on the British class system and life in rural post-war England, but more than anything else, it's a story about Hundreds Hall, a mansion falling into disrepair. Widowed Mrs. Ayres, injured RAF pilot Roderick (her son), and her mannish daughter Caroline are living together at Hundreds when Dr. Faraday is called out for a visit. He witnesses the rapid decline of both family and farm and becomes a friend and confidante to the Ayres. Something is afoot at Hundreds; rooms are catching on fire, an otherwise friendly dog bites a child, scribbles appear on walls, and footsteps can be heard in the hallways without justification. This book has been billed as suspenseful and spooky but, with the exception of one scene, I found it to be neither. Just as the suspense builds, the characters get into another long and drawn out conversation, and the use of Faraday as a narrator contributes to the sense that nothing was edited out of this 466 page tome.