Warning: If you have not read “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters, do not read this review if you don’t wish to come across spoilers.
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“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.”
In terms of the plot, I thought that the main events that happened in that plot such as the growing and dying romance of Faraday and Caroline, as well as the ominous atmosphere of Hundreds Hall invading all of the character’s behaviour and how it affected them. The plotline as a whole, though, was very slow, and also very saddening the entire time. There were some sprinkles of hope spots in the beginning, but they quickly diminished to nothing once Roderick was written off.
When it came to character development, I admit it fell a bit flat for some characters, such as Roderick. I wasn’t sure how to feel about Roderick mainly because he got written off about halfway through the book due to his, according to Faraday’s perspective, worsening mental health. Mrs. Ayres just felt gloomy for the most part, and Caroline was there simply because she was to act as a tragic love interest for Faraday. None of the characters were likable, and I think they’re written in that particular light so the reader can try to analyze the situation and try to figure out what’s going on. It doesn’t help that Faraday, the main character we see the whole story through, can be an unreliable narrator at various points in the book.
Speaking of the romance between Faraday and Caroline, I feel like it’s one of those relationships that have a serious slow burn to them, but in this case the slow burn was really written well despite the little development both of them had. It took them at least until halfway through the book for them to get together, and once the relationship began falling apart, it made me question if Faraday really loved Caroline, as she does accuse him of wanting her for her money and status at some point in the book. Despite the unhappy ending to the romance, however, it was actually quite well-written. It’s one of those romances that doesn’t have them immediately falling in love at first sight and getting together two days later—both characters actually take the time to get to know each other before they do get together romantically.
What annoyed me about the book was that Mrs. Ayres and Caroline’s deaths felt very predictable. Mrs. Ayres’ worsening mental health ending up in a suicide felt like a plot point I’ve repeatedly read in past novels, and the way that Caroline’s death is implied to most likely be suicide due to Faraday’s own words in their last arguments having a major factor also felt a bit too predictable as well. I believe this is the case because of either too much foreshadowing for both deaths for these events to act as a plot twist, or simply because these plotlines have been used in so many other novels.
Overall, I would rate this book a 2.5 out of 5 stars because of the lack of character development, slow plot, and predictable character deaths.