Saturday, June 20, 2009

#36 - The Little Stranger

After finally (with a month-long struggle) finishing Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger, I have to admit that I'm hit or miss with her books. I adored both Fingersmith and The Night Watch. But really didn't like Tipping the Velvet. And I'm afraid I'll have to add The Little Stranger to the cons side simply because the book just failed to grab me. No, wait, let me restate that, after the first 100 pages or so, I lost interest in the book entirely.

By fate and circumstance, a bachelor rural doctor becomes inextricably involved with the fading Ayers family (Mrs. Ayers, Caroline and Roderick), owners of Hundreds Hall, a decaying house that was once the centre of society for their corner of Warwickshire. The war has just ended, leaving the country and its young men wounded, and Roderick, the eldest son, suffers. Dr. Faraday, called out to the house in place of the Ayers's regular doctor, soon finds himself an indispensible friend to the family.

With his frequent visits to Hundreds Hall, Dr. Faraday soon becomes embroiled in the myriad problems the family begins to have. First, it's a terrible accident involving a family pet, a particular favourite of Caroline's. Then, as Roderick suffers through emotional and physical difficulties, another terrible accident happens. Soon, the family, and even the servants, a young Betty and the older Mrs. Bazeley, feel as if all of the bad luck converging remains squarely the fault of the house itself.

This theme, of suspicious activity coupled with the belief that the house is haunted felt a little like The X-Files, the Ayers's Mulder to Dr. Faraday's Scully. In a fairly typical way, each occurance is dismissed by various members of the scientific community and yet life for the Ayers's doesn't seem to get any better. It's almost as if Waters was watching far too many episodes of Most Haunted during the writing of this novel. But, mainly, for me, I couldn't hang on to the main character -- I found him staid, kind of boring and a little two predictable. I'm a huge fan of Waters, as I've said above, but this novel put me right to sleep, and despite one or two truly terrifying scenes, left me without the necessary chill required from a book that's supposed to scare the pants off of you.

READING CHALLENGES: Nothing to see here.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Summer is short: reading Dorothy Allison's Trash. And I've got to finish a Canadian book this weekend to sum up my Canadian Book Challenge.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

I felt the same way about this book; but I couldn't finish it. Halfway through I just lost interest, and had to return it to the library anyway, so that was that.