Book Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Book review for The Little Stranger, a spooky, gothic mystery that will have you questioning the characters’ sanity.

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510 pages / published April 30, 2009 / Goodreads: 3.56 (out of 5) / Amazon

The Little Stranger

One postwar summer, in his home in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners–mother, son, and daughter–are struggling to keep pace with a changing society. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister 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.

Book Review of The Little Stranger:

The Little Stranger was a reread for me after I had been searching for something gothic and scary to read in the month of October. Though I have plenty of new Halloween-ish books to read, a journey back into Hundreds Hall was calling to me, and I just had to give this one a go again and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Sarah Waters is a master of words. This story is so terrifyingly scary, but the build-up is amazing. It’s worth it to take your time to really visualize the scenery Waters details in the story, to really see Hundreds in your mind. To some, it might seem like a slow build, but for me, those are the best. I love a story that gives plenty of detail that really fleshes out the characters and the setting before getting into the creepy.

“The subliminal mind has many dark, unhappy corners, after all. Imagine something loosening itself from one of those corners. Let’s call it a–a germ. And let’s say conditions prove right for that germ to develop–to grow, like a child in the womb. What would this little stranger grow into? A sort of shadow-self, perhaps: a Caliban, a Mr Hyde. A creature motivated by all the nasty impulses and hungers the conscious mind had hoped to keep hidden away: things like envy and malice and frustration…”

Sarah Waters, quote from The Little Stranger

But even though The Little Stranger is quite scary, it’s not your typical horror novel. You can’t go into this book expecting lots of blood and gore and scares on every page; rather, you get to dive into the lives of a family who used to be quite high society but has since declined along with their home. In a way, it made me think of Grey Gardens, but not quite that level of deterioration of the home. We see how they manage and struggle with this change through the eyes of Dr. Faraday, who becomes a frequent visitor to Hundreds.

Another thing I really liked was the debate between what is real and what is otherworldly. It was interesting to get so many perspectives to the point that, as a reader, you might not be able to put your finger on the real answer.

Would I Recommend The Little Stranger?

If you love historical fiction with subtle but terrifying horror, or if you’re a fan of books similar to The Haunting of Hill House or Picnic at Hanging Rock, then The Little Stranger is for you. Sarah Waters has an amazing imagination and the ability to really pull the reader into the story. You won’t be able to put this down.

What do other readers think?

Are you looking for more spooky reads?

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