Monday, May 25, 2009

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

This is a ghost story. Or is it? The Little Stranger fits into my favorite gothic novel category and is an excellent example of a scary, horror story that is not bloody or gory. Set just after World War II in Warwickshire, England this novel is narrated by Dr. Faraday, a 40-year-old bachelor and country doctor. When he is called out to a case at Hundreds' Hall he meets the Ayres family; Mrs. Ayres, her daughter Caroline and her son Roderick. They are an old, aristocratic family who live in a beautiful, yet crumbling and falling apart mansion. Their financial situation is precarious and Roderick is under extreme stress trying to keep them solvent. Injured in the war, he walks with a limp and when Dr. Faraday proposes an electrical treatment for his muscles Rod reluctantly agrees. Dr. Faraday begins spending many hours with the family administering Rod's treatment and eventually becomes entangled in their strange affairs. Soon, mysterious and tragic events begin to befall this isolated family and Dr. Faraday details it all as it is told to him as he rarely witnesses the events himself. As the novel progresses the reader starts to feel that "something isn't right here" feeling, but it is hard to pinpoint why. Eventually, the family comes to believe that they are possessed by a supernatural force that is trying to destroy them. I loved the pacing of this novel. Waters uses the slow build-up method that makes the reader uneasy and creeped out. Though the pacing is deliberate, I couldn't stop reading and stayed up long into the night to discover the mystery of Hundreds Hall. If you like gothic reads such as The Historian or The Thirteenth Tale, this is a perfect read for you. It is also perfect if you just want a good old-fashioned ghost story. I loved it!

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