The Little Stranger is a modern day ghost story set in post WWII at Hundreds Hall, an old English mansion that has fallen into disrepair. It is owned and inhabited by the Ayres family, a mother and her daughter and son. Doctor Faraday, the local doctor, becomes involved with the family when he is called out to see one of the Hall's servants when she falls in. Gradually though, strange happenings begin to occur around the house that slowly send the family spiralling out of control.
The story is told through the eyes of Doctor Faraday, who plays the role of the non-believer that is essential in every ghost story. He is a rational man with a scientific mind, who tries throughout the novel to make rational sense of the strange ghostly occurrences at Hundreds Hall.
Initially, we are made to think that Doctor Faraday is an objective observer but it slowly becomes clear that perhaps he is not as objective as we might think. We begin to get a sense the Doctor Faraday has a growing obsession with Hundreds Hall; he thinks about it all the time and makes every effort to ingratiate himself with the family as often as he can. I couldn't help but wonder whether he had designs on the property and how this effected his ability to analyse what was occurring within the house.
Waters did an an excellent job of combining a spooky ghost story with social commentary. The darkness of the ghost story fit in very well with the dark and sombre mood of England post WWII.
Hundreds Hall imposes itself upon the story so well that it almost becomes a character in its own right. The large rambling mansion is falling into disrepair because its owners are unable to afford the upkeep. The garden is taking over the house, the steps are crumbling to pieces and inside the wall paper is peeling from the walls. In a way, Hundreds Hall is used a metaphor for the country itself.
Much like James' The Turn of the Screw, the reader is left wondering at the end about what, if any, the ghostly present was. I know this allows for additional mystery - but I would have preferred a more conclusive outcome after investing so much time in the story. Waters makes a bold attempt to create a spooky atmosphere with the mystery - but it fell a little short of the mark for me. I often felt that the story was moving just a little too slowly, and was a little too focussed on Doctor Faraday and not enough on the ghostly elements of the story. Although I enjoyed it, it definitely wasn't in the same league as the Turn of the Screw for fear and tension.
What kind of read is this?
It is an easy read, but the book is rather thick and it takes longer to read than you might expect.
Do I recommend this book?
I recommend it to people who enjoy ghost stories but it won't be the best ghost story that they read.
Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No, borrow it.
Are you a fan of ghost stories? I would love to know what you think of this book if you have read it or any of Sarah Waters other books?