9781594484469
The Little Stranger share button
Sarah Waters
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)
Pages 528
Publisher Penguin Group (USA)
Publication Date May 2010
ISBN 9781594484469
Book ISBN 10 1594484465
About Book

The New York Times bestseller and Booker Prize contender that "delivers...a ghost story that creeps up your spine" (Seattle Times).

One post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners-mother, son, and daughter-are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

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Reviews

Ron Charles

Sarah Waters ain't afraid of no ghost. Her new novel, a deliciously creepy tale called The Little Stranger, is haunted by the spirits of Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe. Waters is just one turn of the screw away from The Fall of the House of Usher…What saves The Little Stranger from sinking into a fetid swamp of cliche is the author's restraint, her ability, like James's, to excite our imagination through subtle suggestion alone. The supernatural creaks and groans that reverberate through this tale are accompanied by malignant strains of class envy and sexual repression that infect every perfectly reasonable explanation we hear. The result is a ghost story as intelligent as it is stylish.
—The Washington Post

Scarlett Thomas

Sarah Waters is an excellent, evocative writer, and this is an incredibly gripping and readable novel.
—The New York Times

Publishers Weekly

Waters (The Night Watch) reflects on the collapse of the British class system after WWII in a stunning haunted house tale whose ghosts are as horrifying as any in Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Doctor Faraday, a lonely bachelor, first visited Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a parlor maid, at age 10 in 1919. When Faraday returns 30 years later to treat a servant, he becomes obsessed with Hundreds's elegant owner, Mrs. Ayres; her 24-year-old son, Roderick, an RAF airman wounded during the war who now oversees the family farm; and her slightly older daughter, Caroline, considered a "natural spinster" by the locals, for whom the doctor develops a particular fondness. Supernatural trouble kicks in after Caroline's mild-mannered black Lab, Gyp, attacks a visiting child. A damaging fire, a suicide and worse follow. Faraday, one of literature's more unreliable narrators, carries the reader swiftly along to the devastating conclusion. (May)

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Stephen King

The best book I read this year.
Entertainment Weekly

The Washington Post

Deliciously creepy...a ghost story as intelligent as it is stylish

The New York Times Book Review

Sarah Waters is an excellent, evocative writer, and this is an incredibly gripping and readable novel.

USA Today

A classic gothic page-turner.

Library Journal

Few authors do dread as well as Waters (The Night Watch). Her latest novel is a ghost story with elements of both The Fall of the House of Usher and Brideshead Revisited. In post-World War II Britain, the financially struggling Dr. Faraday is called to Hundreds Hall, home of the upper-class Ayreses, now fallen on hard times. Ostensibly there to treat Roderick Ayres for a war injury, Faraday soon sees signs of mental decline-first in Roderick and later in his mother, Mrs. Ayres. Waters builds the suspense slowly, with the skeptical Faraday refusing to accept the explanations of Roderick or of the maid Betty, who believe that there is a supernatural presence in the house. Meanwhile, Faraday becomes enamored of Roderick's sister Caroline and begins to dream of building a family within the confines of the ruined Hundreds Hall. This spooky, satisfying read has the added pleasure of effectively detailing postwar village life, with its rationing, social strictures, and gossip, all on the edge of Britain's massive change to a social state. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/08.]
—Devon Thomas

Kirkus Reviews

A sinister ancestral hoe in an advanced state of decay, a family terrorized by its own history, and a narrator drawn into these orbits dominate this creepy novel from Waters (The Night Watch, 2006, etc.). Shortly after the end of World War II, and nearly 30 years after first seeing magnificent Hundreds Hall as an awestruck ten-year-old, hardworking Doctor Faraday is summoned to the now-shabby Warwickshire estate to treat a young housemaid's illness. Widowed Mrs. Ayres, her son Roderick, crippled and traumatized by injuries sustained during his wartime tenure as a RAF pilot, and bluff, pleasant daughter Caroline quickly accept Faraday as a friend, and he is initially enchanted by the family's stoical perseverance as Hundreds Hall falls into ruin and farmlands are sold to pay off mounting debts. But worse awaits: The family's gentle dog Gyp unaccountably and severely bites a visiting young girl, and neither Faraday's continuing professional ministrations nor his growing love for plucky Caroline can save these reclusive prewar relics from the supernatural presences seemingly arisen from their past. Waters' scrupulously engineered plot builds efficiently to a truly scary highpoint halfway through her long narrative. But tensions relax perilously, as the doctor's repeated emergency visits to Hundreds Hall become almost risibly indistinguishable, and even crucial dramatic moments are muffled by fervent conversations among the four major characters. Furthermore, too many crucial pieces of information are relayed secondhand, as Faraday summarizes accounts of other people's experiences. Still, Waters has extended her range agreeably, working in traditions established by Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridanle Fanu and Wilkie Collins, expertly teasing us with suggestive allusions to the classics of supernatural fiction. A subtle clue planted in one character's given name neatly foreshadows, then explains, the Ayres family's self-destructive insularity. Flawed but nevertheless often gripping thriller from one of the most interesting novelists at work today.

The Barnes & Noble Review

Sarah Waters made her name as the writer of erotic "lesbo-Victorian romps" that effortlessly straddle the worlds of literary and genre fiction. Set in rural Warwickshire just after the Second World War, The Little Stranger is her fifth novel, the first with a male narrator, Dr. Faraday. We meet the doctor at Hundreds Hall, a former grand structure now wasting away, and home to the Ayreses for close to two centuries. Members of the landed gentry now fallen to ruin, the Ayreses -- Mrs. Ayres and her two grown children, Caroline and Roderick -- seem steeped in a bygone, gentler age. Called upon to examine the housemaid, Dr Faraday finds himself strangely drawn to the dilapidated house, where his own mother used to work as a maid 30 years ago. What begins as mild fascination with the house and its residents will transform itself into something more pronounced as Dr. Faraday scrambles to make sense of the strange happenings that begin to haunt Hundreds. Unexplained marks appear on the walls, fires start on their own accord, and footsteps break the silence of unoccupied rooms. Acting both as doctor and confidant, Dr. Faraday's life becomes closely entwined with the Ayreses, even as a string of greater tragedies descend on the Hundreds. This is quintessential Waters territory -- involving madness, suicide, and an arguable murder -- perfected over the rather steep arc of her work. Dripping with psychological suspense, The Little Stranger keeps the reader guessing on whether it is an atmospheric horror story or a macabre murder mystery right to the end. --Vikram Johri