The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor.
One dusty post-war summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to be a patient at Hundreds Hall.
Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its garden choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine, its owners – mother, son and daughter – struggling to keep pace with a changing society.
But are the Ayres haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life?
Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.
I stayed awake until two in the morning last night, utterly gripped, desperate to find out just how The Little Stranger would end. And boy, was it worth the bloodshot tired eyes! It’s a slightly ambiguous ending that leaves you guessing, but I am convinced that it was Faraday all along.
The Little Stranger is told from Dr Faraday’s point-of-view and he is initially quite a likeable character, but as the novel went on, my perception of Faraday started to rapidly change. We begin to see what an unreliable narrator he really is. His fixation on Hundreds turns from sweet concern for the Ayres into something more sinister all together and we see this in the culmination of the budding romance between him and Caroline. As she spurs his advances for a wedding, we start to see the darker side of Faraday. I’m convinced that he is the subconscious mind behind the poltergeist activity at the Hall. After all, it all starts when he arrives.
Waters knows how to send a shiver down your spine. When Roderick, Caroline’s brother, is recounting his experiences to Faraday, it feels as though you are there in the room with him seeing all the horrific acts unfold before your own eyes. The vividness and detail in the demise of Mrs Ayres was enough to have me laying paranoid with the light on all night.
The Little Stranger is a stellar showcase of storytelling at its finest. I fell in love with the dilapidated Hundreds Hall and its inhabitants and I felt my heart ache with every loss. It was a slow build initially and I was quite unsure, but as the tension started to increase and we got to the spooky business, I was beyond engrossed. Had it not been for the fact I had work matters to attend to, I would have happily foregone sleep everyday just to keep reading. Amongst the horror, there’s a tinge of sadness and tragedy at the core of The Little Stranger. I felt so much empathy for each of the Ayres and their devastating fates, but I suppose that I also felt a little sorry for Faraday even if he did get creepier and creepier as the book drew to a close.
I must admit that I only picked The Little Stranger up after hearing Domhnall Gleeson would be playing Dr. Faraday in the film adaptation and seeing some on set photos. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the cast also features Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter and Charlotte Rampling as the Ayres family and is slated to be released next year.
Shame on myself for not picking up Waters’ books earlier. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about her other novels like Fingersmith for years. However, if it took Domhnall Gleeson to get me to finally read one of her novels and discover what a master storyteller she is, then I’m not complaining!
A complex and deliciously dark novel, I was enthralled by The Little Stranger. With its excellent pacing and spine-tingling suspense, I shall miss diving into the doom and gloom of Hundreds Hall. But with Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White being my next read, and many other reviewers drawing comparisons between Waters’ work and Collins’ novel, I am very excited to continue to immerse myself in these chillingly creepy narratives.