Sarah Waters — The Little Stranger (2009)
Audiobook | mp3 CBR 128 kbps 44100 stereo | 13 CD | 15 h 50 min | 831 MB | ISBN: 9781405505925 | Hachette Audio
The Little Stranger is a ghost story from one of Britain's finest and best loved writers. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2009.
Sarah Waters reflects on the collapse of the British class system after WWII in a stunning haunted house tale. Doctor Faraday, a lonely bachelor, first visited Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a parlor maid, at age 10 in 1919. When Faraday returns 30 years later to treat a servant, he becomes obsessed with Hundreds's elegant owner, Mrs. Ayres; her 24-year-old son, Roderick, an RAF airman wounded during the war who now oversees the family farm; and her slightly older daughter, Caroline, considered a “natural spinster” by the locals, for whom the doctor develops a particular fondness. Supernatural trouble kicks in after Caroline's mild-mannered black Lab, Gyp, attacks a visiting child. A damaging fire, a suicide and worse follow. Faraday, one of literature's more unreliable narrators, carries the reader swiftly along to the devastating conclusion. — Publishers Weekly review
An Interview of Sarah Waters to afterellen.com
Your new novel, The Little Stranger, centers around an eccentric family, the Ayres, a lonely bachelor, Dr. Faraday, and a haunted house, Hundreds Hall. What inspired this story?
Sarah Waters: I wrote it after writing The Night Watch so I was already in that period, the late forties, and I really wanted to stay there because I felt there were other stories to tell about the period. I’ve always been interested in that postwar world.
I was especially interested in how the war had shaken up the British class system. After the war, the Labour government was voted in and the working class felt empowered, or at least they wanted to make changes, and the upper middle class as a result felt really under attack. That idea of them being under attack really interested me so I thought I’d make a move out of London. I liked the idea of a country house that was collapsing because its owners couldn’t afford it and couldn’t get service anymore.
The supernatural element came in pretty late in the planning process, but then I suddenly thought, actually, the best way to represent this sense of menace and attackness might be through a haunted house. I saw an opportunity to write a real proper haunted house novel.
You’ve said that you began your Victorian novels with a focus on plot, and The Night Watch with a focus on character. In The Little Stranger, the point of view of Dr. Faraday as an unreliable first-person narrator was an interesting technical choice. Did you have a particular focus for this book?
SW: That’s a good question really. I had a vision early on for the whole book. I knew that this was going to be a doomed family — not to give anything away — but rather like a country house murder where people get picked off one by one. I kind of wanted it to be a bit like that. The narration was crucial because there were lots of different ways I could have told the story. I liked the idea of the doctor partially because he fitted nicely into the genre of British ghost stories — a gentleman bachelor narrator who would tell the story from a slight distance.
Dr. Faraday was very much like them, a middle class country doctor, a friend of the family, and he was going to report these tragedies from a distance, not really understanding them. But then he became much more interesting to me as he became more complicated and that made the book much richer for me. He essentially becomes a bit of an unreliable narrator. Not in the sense that he’s lying to us — I don’t think he is anyway — but there are things going on that he can’t appreciate. Technically it was interesting having him as the narrator because he never experiences anything supernatural firsthand and that means we don’t either. We’re getting them reported to us, which does allow for a range of interpretations.
You’ve said that Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith were exciting books to write because of the “devious plots,” as oppose to Affinity, which was a “gloomy book to write.” What was your experience like writing The Little Stranger?
SW: Funny enough, it was a relatively even writing process, which was pretty positive. I wrote this after writing The Night Watch, which was a difficult book. I was aware of the things that I had to get right with this book because the narrator was slightly unreliable. It’s quite a claustrophobic story in a sense. There’s no subplot. It’s all pretty much in the house and it’s like one thing after the other and I worried about that so I had to think about pacing. I was very preoccupied with details and aspects like that, which made it quite an intellectual exercise.
As fond as I was of the characters and as committed as I was to the story it didn’t have as much of me in it as The Night Watch. It wasn’t as emotional a writing experience. No less satisfying, just different.
Are you working on anything new now?
SW: I’m reading and thinking about the next one. Just taking it slowly.
SW: Well, I hardly dare say because it will probably change. At the moment, I’m drawn to the pre-war period of the twenties or thirties, probably back in London as much as I liked the country setting. I say this every time, but I’d really like to write something more upbeat. I’m going to write a romantic comedy this time! [Laughs]. But then I start to plan it and think, oh, but it would be much more interesting if this person was really wicked. The gloom really draws me. But Tipping the Velvet was such fun so I would like to write something a bit more rompy.
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