I realise I am probably one of the few bloggers yet to read The Little Stranger. I'm not even sure why I have waited so long to pick it up - I am a huge fan of Sarah Waters and was really excited to know that she would have a new book coming out this year - and yet when it came out I didn't rush out to buy it or place it on hold at my library... I did buy it as an audio book to listen to on our recent trip but I realised after I was only part way through the first chapter that I would need to actually read this one - something about the style of the book and the writing meant I needed to "see" it.
The book is marketed as a "chilling ghost story" which could explain why I had stayed away from it for so long - ghost stories aren't usually my forte. But having recently finished Her Fearful Symmetry (which I WILL post about soon!) I must have been in the mood to continue along the haunted way.
The Little Stranger centres around the Ayres family - English, upper-class, estate owners - in the time following WW2. The patriarch of the family has died leaving his wife and two adult children, Caroline and Roderick, to run the family house and estate - Hundreds Hall (my favourite character in the book by far). Into the life of the family comes a local GP, Dr Faraday, a local boy "made good" through the sacrifices of his working class parents and who has a mental and emotional connection to Hundreds Hall through the memories of a visit he made there when he was a child.
At the beginning of the story things are not going well for the Ayres family. Money is tight and only getting tighter, Roderick has returned from WW2 with psychological and physical injuries and Hundreds Hall itself is barely a shadow of the magnificent mansion it once was. Things only get worse from here. A traumatic incident at a party held by the family seems to start a spiral of events leading to the dismantling of the family in every sense of the word - and Hundreds Hall itself seems to be out for some sort of revenge.
I didn't find myself so much being scared by this book but depressed! The pains and experiences of the Ayres family are brought to life in vivid detail - the characterisation by Waters was brilliant I thought - each character stood out clearly and I felt like I knew them and could in some ways predict how they would respond and act. To me this brought a sense of genuineness to the not only the characters but the story itself. The decline of Hundreds Hall was sad and pathetic - I wanted to be able to donate some money to the restoration cause in the hope that it could be saved. Unfortunately I think there was much than just physical decay occurring within the estate.
I have read with much interest the reviews by other bloggers on this one in past months and they all intrigued me - there seemed to be a lot of different opinions and reactions to the ending of the book. Although I don't think I can say I totally enjoyed this book - as I have said before I found it too depressing to call it an enjoyable experience - I do think it is a clever, extremely well written book. As to whether it is a ghost story - well, I think that all depends on what your definition of a ghost may be...