Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Currently reading: The Little Stranger

on May 3, 2010

I was meaning to read The Little Stranger last year when I heard it described as being better than Fingersmith, which I loved.  For various reasons I didn’t get round to it and then it slipped my mind, until earlier this year when two people in my reading group were raving about it.  So far I haven’t been disappointed: Waters’ usual subtlety is there right from the beginning, exciting the reader’s curiosity (even though nothing much happens for quite a while at the beginning) and keeping the pages turning until the first significant “event”.   The way in which she brings in the idea of the supernatural is masterful, hinting at it in the opening chapters and then ignoring it for a long time before gradually introducing it again with more emphasis, involving more of the characters and raising questions in the reader’s mind.  I wouldn’t say that, at the moment, I agree that it’s better than Fingersmith but it’s certainly a great story, well told.  I look forward to reading more when I get the chance.  One element of particular interest is that it deals with a theme which I love to consider: that of the landed classes’ coming to terms with the changes in our society over the first part of the twentieth century.  Most of the novels I’ve read which look at this are covering the period around the First World War, which I suppose was the real turning point for many estates and their owners.  A good example of this which I’ve read recently is Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton.  Waters, however, is covering the period following WWII in which families such as the Ayres are clinging on to their property for dear life whilst personally struggling to make ends meet, because caring for their family home is what they have been brought up to do; indeed, that is all they know how to do.  Simultaneously they wonder at others in their position who realise their assets in order to make a more comfortable life for themselves.  It’s fascinating.

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