The Little Stranger
This book was one of my longest standing Kindle items in that I bought it in 2011, and read it this week, 3 years later. I had previously read Fingersmith, The Night Watch and Tipping The Velvet and enjoyed each to a different degree. I was utterly blown away by Fingersmith and stayed up all night reading it, but try as I might I kept false starting with The Little Stranger, not getting past the first 3 or 4 pages until my breakthrough the other day.
It concerns the Ayres family, once landed gentry, struggling to survive in the high taxation post World War Two landscape. Roderick, the son and heir is doing his best to hold back the tide, but Hundreds Hall becomes shabbier by the day. Dr Faraday is called in by chance to treat their one remaining live-in servant Betty, and thus becomes attached to their family, a frequent visitor to tea, and observer of events.
But something strange is happening at Hundreds Hall, things that go bump in the night, markings appear on walls and bells ring without anyone to ring them - does all this have a rational explanation as Faraday believes it must? Or is something more sinister at work?
I really liked this book, and read it finally, in two sittings, I think the end sentence is supposed to be ambiguous, an open ending, but I think if you've followed the clues well enough the answer will meet you. The book has an old fashioned ghost story and a riddle at its heart, but is more the sort of book to make you think and anaylse and make your flesh creep than to give you nightmares. Think The Woman In Black yet vastly better written. A lot of other readers have compared it to Turn Of The Screw but I have not read it and so don't know if its an accurate comparison.
As with Fingersmith I enjoyed the way psychiatric care was painted in a very sinister and ultimately abusive light.
There is also the real sense that we are bearing witness to the of the end of an era, not just of Hundreds Hall but of the torch passing from the likes of the Ayres, onwards into the modern age.
This is a really good book, though perhaps dry in parts