One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. 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 intimately entwined with his.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Narrated by Simon Vance. Published by Books on Tape, April 2009. Run time is 15 hours and 49 mins.
Trigger Warning: Animal death.
This book…. oh boy this book…
So, for a while now, I’ve been heavily researching and combing the internet, writing up several different horror lists. Horror novels by women, people of color, own voice, non-North American, LGBT+, etc as well as lists of themes- weather, ecological, creatures, ghosts, killer bugs, horror tropes, killer kids, YA horror, by decade, etc. The Little Stranger has popped up multiple times in my search for the best horror books ever. I found it at the library and decided to get it.
And….. I have no idea how review this book…. I’m not even totally sure how I feel about this book. I …. I don’t think I liked it.
So The Little Stranger is one of those haunted house stories where it may or may not be actually haunted and everything is left up to the reader to decide after the book is over. I hate books where I’m left with more questions then answers. I do not like high levels of ambigiousness in a book. You don’t have to totally spell it out for me, but it doesn’t have to be a rubik’s cube to try and figure out either. Especially when the story is almost 16 hours long and the book is filled with…. well…. filler. All of above snuffs out all the creepy suspense that has built up… which, also, is not a lot of suspense because everything moves so. Slow. I get slow burn novels, but this was taking it to a whole new level of slow burning. When I finally did get to the end of the book, and the big reveal is subtly slipped in…. Honestly, I felt angry. Almost 16 hours and this is the ending we get? It left me feeling like I wasted my time. I hate saying that, but it’s true.
Another problem I have when The Little Stranger is that it’s on several lists for best horror and it’s not even really horror! It is historical fiction with a tiny bit of paranormal (maybe or maybe not?) activity. I thought it was going to be gothic horror haunting and I just never got that vibe at all.
I just don’t get why this book is so highly praised. It is long and too meanderingly slow paced and the ending feels like one of those horror movies that is trying too hard be arty and or thought provoking. None of that was working for me.