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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

AUTHOR: Sarah Waters
PUBLISHER: Penguin Audio
PUBLICATION DATE: April 30, 2009 (first published January 1, 2009)
FORMAT: Unabridged Audio CDs, 16 hrs on 13 discs
GENRE: Suspense/Thriller
ISBN: 9780143144809
A chilling and vividly rendered ghost story set in postwar Britain, by the bestselling and award-winning author of The Night Watch and Fingersmith.

Sarah Waters's trilogy of Victorian novels Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith earned her legions of fans around the world, a number of awards, and a reputation as one of today's most gifted historical novelists. With her most recent book, The Night Watch, Waters turned to the 1940s and delivered a tender and intricate novel of relationships that brought her the greatest success she has achieved so far.

With The Little Stranger, Waters revisits the fertile setting of Britain in the 1940s-and gives us a sinister tale of a haunted house, brimming with the rich atmosphere and psychological complexity that have become hallmarks of Waters's work.

The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline - its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

Abundantly atmospheric and elegantly told, The Little Stranger is Sarah Waters's most thrilling and ambitious novel yet.


The Little Stranger is an eerie story that is told in a very subtle way. It was a 2009 Man Booker Prize Nominee for Shortlist and also a 2009 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction & Mystery/Thriller.

The story takes place in England after WWII and features the well-to-do Ayres family. The matron of the family, Mrs. Ayres, is widowed and she lives at the Hundreds Hall estate with her rather homely daughter, Caroline, and son, Roderick. The family has fallen on hard times, and what was once a shining jewel is now a decrepit mansion in desperate need of repairs. Roderick, in his father’s stead, has taken over the handling of the estate’s day-to-day affairs but is finding it hard to manage when there are no liquid assets left. The rugs and furniture, once beautiful and ornate, are threadbare and shabby.  The bulk of the financial burden falls on Roderick’s shoulders, which puts a huge strain on him.

One of the local country doctors, Dr. Faraday, is called to Hundreds Hall because the Ayres’ young servant, a teenager named Betty, has been stricken with stomach pains. His now-deceased mother was once a servant for the Ayres family, and Dr. Faraday remembers being so enamoured with Hundreds Hall as a young boy. He is thrilled to have an opportunity to see it again, but he is quite shocked to see it in such a state of disrepair. The Ayres have become somewhat like hermits, keeping mostly to their estate and not venturing out into town. A congenial friendship is struck up between Dr. Faraday and the Ayres family, and he begins to drop in and visit with them. He notices that Roderick’s leg, which was injured in the war, has been giving him trouble and the good doctor offers to take a look at it. Knowing that the family has no money to pay for treatment but is too proud to admit it outright, he advises that he is researching an experimental treatment of such injuries and Roderick would be doing him a favour if he were to be the doctor’s guinea pig. Because the treatment is experimental and not guaranteed, there would be no charge for the doctor’s services. Roderick agrees to give it a go, and the doctor arranges to visit on a regular basis on the pretense that his visits are completely professional as the family’s physician. In reality, Dr. Faraday is becoming rather smitten with Caroline!

Accidents begin to happen at Hundreds Hall, and the Ayres family as well as the servant, Betty, believe that there is an evil presence haunting the house that is to blame. Dr. Faraday thinks this is nonsense and feels that the family is slowly going mad. Is the doctor correct in his assumption, or is there something more sinister afoot? What will it take for the doctor to see the truth and, when he comes to that realization, will it be too late?

I found myself frustrated at Dr. Faraday’s refusal to believe that the events that took place were anything out of the ordinary. In his no-nonsense approach, he rationalized everything as being solely attributed to the family’s mental state. His obstinate manner made me want to grab him by his lapels and shake some sense into him!

Waters is a new-to-me author, and I found myself completely wrapped up in this psychological thriller. Her prose is just beautiful, and I could clearly envision Hundreds Hall as I listened to the story. I love the understated way that she relayed the tale. She did not need to resort to gory or graphic details, and I found myself hooked by what she didn’t say. I am now a Waters fan and will be looking into her backlist.

Narrator Simon Vance is a delight to listen to! I love his British accent, and his characterizations were spot-on. I have heard of Vance by reputation only, and now I have finally had the pleasure to hear him. I found myself listening with rapt attention. He is easily one of my favourite narrators.

4 stars!! It was really good! You should put it on your "To Be Read" list.

This book qualifies as: 


  1. ooh..i am so curious about this after reading review..all the accidents and mysterious things! Wonderful review Darlene!

    1. Thanks, Kimba! It was definitely a mysterious story, and the ending is I think this is one that I'll be listening to again!

  2. I loved this book too and recommend The Night Watch (which is my favourite) as well as Affinity. I'm planning on reading the rest as I loved Waters' writing style.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations,! I'll be sure to look into them!


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