December 9, 2012

The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
2009 Penguin Group Audio
Reader: Simon Vance
Length: 14 CDs, 18 hours
Finished: 11/2/12
Rating: 3/5 (So-so)
R.I.P. VII Challenge

From the author's website:

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand 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 entwined with his.

Prepare yourself. From this wonderful writer who continues to astonish us, now comes a chilling ghost story.

I chose The Little Stranger as my second selection for this year’s RIP VII Challenge (hosted by Carl). I’ve read one other book by Waters (The Night Watch) and was anxious to give her latest novel a read. After hearing such good things about Simon Vance, I decided to go with the audio book rather than the paperback. Vance lived up to all the praise I’d been hearing and is now one of my favorite readers (next to Jim Dale).* His performance was outstanding! Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same about the novel. I was expecting a much scarier tale, something more in tune with Stephen King or Dean Koontz. The Little Stranger is a psychological thriller, and one that kept me guessing clear to the very end. And yet, in spite of listening to the entire book, I found it somewhat anticlimactic. Hundreds Hall is a creepy house with strange, unexplainable occurrences affecting the lives (literally) of those who come in contact with it, but it wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the house in Anne Rivers Siddon’s novel, The House Next Door or Stephen King’s The Shining. I’m not sorry I read it, but I did have my hopes set higher for a stellar read.

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed the audio book well enough to finish, but it’s not one I feel compelled to rush out and buy in print. The Little Stranger should appeal to fans of The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfield) and Don’t Look Now (du Maurier).

*While searching for more books narrated by Simon Vance, I discovered that I’ve already listened to him. Twice! I’d completely forgotten that he was the reader for the Steig Larsson trilogy. I’m looking forward to listening to more and am open to recommendations. I see he narrates A Tale of Two Cities, which was one of my favorite books when I was in high school. I may just have to give that a re-read!


  1. Hm, I've read a lot of great things about Waters' work - I wonder if this would have been better in print.

    1. It might have been, Kathy. I read The Night Watch and thought it was quite good.

  2. I read Little Stranger and liked it well enough - I do like Simon Vance as an audio book narrator. Have you read other Waters books? I want to read Affinity and one more that I missed.

    1. Diane, I've only read one other--The Night Watch (which I enjoyed immensely!). I have one other on my shelf, but can't remember if it's Affinity or The Fingersmith.

  3. This is a bummer to see! I was hoping for a stellar reaction. The good news for me is that I will not focus on this one when I finally pick up a book by her. :)


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