Book Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

“She went into the house as if stepping through a rip in the night and instantly sealing it up behind her.”

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 acenturies, 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. (Goodreads)


“She seemed to cut him from the table–to plunge him into darkness, just as if she were reaching and snuffing out the candles in front of him, one by one.”

This is definitely not your typical haunted house story, and that is why I love it so much. It’s been a while since I’ve been effectively frightened by a book. There were parts where I was too scared to continue–and I honestly don’t experience that very often. One other book that really gave me chills was from Koji Suzuki’s Ring series.

“It was only that moment, feeling the sudden violent dropping or dashing of something inside me, that I knew what she meant to me.”

I am convinced now that Sarah Waters writes the best love stories. At the start of the novel, the two main characters had a platonic relationship with an almost sweet fondness for each other. Very subtly she takes us to a new level of romance, and when we’re head over heels she steers us to another path yet again. I never could predict what will happen next. She has none of the beautiful and perfect hero/heroines I am always unable to relate to, and none of the saccharine romance that is all sweetness but no substance.

“The house, I thought, didn’t deserve their bad feeling; and neither did I.”

I liked the portrayal of the haunted house as a living person. I swear on the part where the author wrote that the house was holding its breath–I was too. The book is about love for houses, and that fascinating point where we see almost a reversal of roles where the supposed masters of the house are in truth the real slaves to it, taking care of it day after day.

“What a punishing business it is, simply being alive.”

The book is also about love for the old and dread for the new. It discusses through complex characters the rise and fall of the gentry and the obstinacy of class pride.

“Unconscious parts, so strong or so troubled they can take on a life of their own.”

If you’re looking for popcorn thrills then this will probably not work for you. It’s a quiet, dignified story. It invites you in and makes you feel comfortable, at ease and at home. It will suck you in first with its charms before feeding on your fear. It invests on feelings rather than shocking visuals. The ending is again so subtly executed you will either be left in awe or with more questions. The fear is felt in a beautiful and haunting way that stays with you even after you close the book. 🥀

Overall rating: 5/5⭐️

P.S. If you’ve read this and felt that the ending was unclear or unsatisfying (like from some of the reviews I’ve read), let me know and let’s talk! I’ve always wanted to talk about it with someone 😆

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