The Little Stranger

  • by Sarah Waters
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 15 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A chilling and vividly rendered ghost story set in postwar Britain, by the best-selling 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 20 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.

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What the Critics Say

"Waters has boldly reassigned all these gothic motifs [of the traditional ghost story] from their usual Freudian duties to another detail entirely: The Little Stranger is about class, and the unavoidable yet lamentable price paid when venerable social hierarchies begin to erode. … Waters has managed to write a near-perfect gothic novel while at the same time confidently deploying the form into fresher territory." (Salon.com)
"[A] marvelous and truly spooky historical novel. … As a strange spot on an old and mouldering ceiling takes on a sinister appearance and bodies begin to accumulate, Waters’s precise and chilling prose lets Dr. Faraday have his way with the story." (Boston Globe)
"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....Faraday, one of literature's more unreliable narrators, carries the reader swiftly along to the devastating conclusion." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Riding a local train

Listening to this book reminded me of riding a train with frequent local stops. No sooner do you seem to get moving when the train halts at a station. You sit there while people get on and off the train and thing happen at the station. Eventually the train gets underway again, but in no time pulls into another station. Fifteen hours later, at a station just like all the rest, the conductor announces, "End of the line; everybody off the train!" And there you are: surprised at the journey's end, because you really haven't gotten anywhere. The writing was stellar, the characters intriguing, the setting unsettling, the narration excellent--but I think because of the frequent and apparently important interjection of apparently preternatural occurences, the ending of the book seems abrupt and unsatisfying.
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- Barbara

A creepy story, with atmosphere for days

The postwar era wasn't generally a good time for the "great houses" of England or the noble families that lived in them. Brothers, sons, and tenant farmers were lost or injured; cash flow lessened accordingly. Wartime rationing lasted much longer in Britain after WWII, until 1950, making it hard to throw a grand party. Servants were hard to find, since many young people began to opt instead for the higher pay (and less classist treatment) of factory jobs. The Little Stranger is nominally a ghost story: one of the "ghosts" is the old way of life.

So if you're looking for a Stephen King-style scarefest, this isn't it. The Little Stranger is a creepy, modern gothic tale, in the tradition of The Woman in White or Rebecca, with perhaps a bit of Wuthering Heights thrown in.

Just after WWII, Dr. Faraday has his own practice in the English countryside, near where he grew up. His patients are ordinary country people, but the great house of his district, Hundreds Hall, has long held his imagination. When he is called to the house to examine a servant, Betty, he's sad to find circumstances much reduced. The house has just three residents--the Widow Ayres and her son and daughter--and Betty is the only servant left.

Still curious about the house, he tends to Betty and then has tea with the Ayreses. So begins a friendship that might have been better left unforged. As things go bad over the course of the following year, Dr. Faraday tells us of a house that's as expensive and troublesome as it is grand. In fact, it seems to be less than fond of its residents--and it's got a mind of its own.

This is not a fast-paced story. Instead, tensions build as Dr. Faraday describes the terrible events at Hundreds Hall. We hear a great deal about how helpful he is: Mrs. Ayres, in particular, is constantly mentioning how wonderful he's been to the family, and how much she values his friendship as he makes tough decisions on their behalf.

Part of the joy of this book, therefore, is imagining a different perspective--are things really as Dr. Faraday tells us they are? Another part is the fantastic narration by Simon Vance, who's done a great job on everything from David Copperfield to the latest Terry Brooks novel. (Vance may sound pompous--but just remember, he's acting!)

No shrouded figures are seen; no skeletons dance in the drawing room, and no monsters are hiding under the beds. But I have to say that the end of this story is one of the most chilling I've read recently--and that's coming from somebody who reads a lot of scary stuff! Highly recommended for fans of the Victorian Gothic genre: The Little Stranger has everything you're craving and more.
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- Lesley

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-08-2009
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio