Sunday, November 1, 2009

Keep Halloween Going a Little Longer with a Spooky Read--Sarah Waters' "The Little Stranger"

Happy November! This month officially kicks off my favorite time of the year--the holiday season. The only bad thing about the holidays--it cuts into my reading time!

In case you're in the mood to keep the fall and Halloween creepiness going a bit longer, today's review is from a gothic novel from Sarah Waters.

Sarah Waters' "The Little Stranger" is set in rural England in the years immediately following the Second World War. A country doctor, Faraday, is called to the isolated country house of the Ayres family to treat their maid. This simple and routine house call pulls Faraday into the peculiar world of the Ayres family. The Ayres' fortunes are not what they once were, and their great country estate, Hundreds, is falling down around them. Slowly, each member of the Ayres family becomes ill--either by a family mental illness or under the influence of an evil presence that is haunting the house. Faraday tries to save the family before the illness effects the Ayres' daughter Caroline, who he has become engaged to. Will Faraday be able to save the family and Hundreds before it's too late?

In the tradition of great Gothic novels, Waters paints a thoroughly creepy mystery in "The Little Stranger." Her portrayal of the Ayres family is excellent, as is the mental picture she gives her reader of Hundreds, the manor house past it's prime. My problem with this novel was the timing. Waters would build a sufficient amount of suspense and energy in her story, and then instead of sustaining it to build a truly great Gothic story, she would let the suspense fade and the pace of the novel would slow WAY DOWN. This unevenness made it really hard for me to remain engaged in this nearly 500 page book. I also found the ending and the characters other than Faraday disappointing.

If you're a big fan of Gothic novels I would recommend this book, but if you are only a casual fan, I recommend that you read something else.

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