Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger
Virago, 2009

When I saw this one with Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna on this year’s longlist, I was both tremendously excited and a bit sad, too, because I knew this was going to pluck them both off the Rainy Day Reader’s shelf. (The one which holds the books that equate to a Literary Sure Thing: you know the shelf, right?)

And with the completion of this one, Sarah Waters moves from my MRE list to my Have Read Everything list. (There’s no link there, because I don’t even have one of those: this is the first time this has happened, that I’ve completely caught up with a MRE writer who is still writing and publishing.)

It’s a sad state, that: having read everything that an author has written and having to wait for another.

But, if you’d asked me yesterday whether I was sad about it, I’d’ve said No Way.

And then I’d have asked you to Go Away and Stop Talking to Me Because I’m Reading The Little Stranger, ThankYouVeryMuch.

But here’s the part where I don’t say a damn thing about this novel because there’s no freakin’ way that I’m going to be the one who ruins it for you. But here’s what I will say about her writing in general, which is borne out by The Little Stranger.

W is for Wonder stories. Not as properly defined, which are folklore-y and fairy-tale-ish. But as in stories I have read With Wonder. Have read as I read when I was a child, turning the pages greedily, sometimes my eyes slipping across the lines even faster than I can read them, just hungry to find out what happens. Willing to go Wherever she takes me. (Well-Written. Wow. Wriggle-in-my-seat goodness.)

“Arriving at that crumbling red house, I’d have the sense, every time, that ordinary life had fractionally tilted, and that I had slipped into some other, odder, rather rarer realm.” (69)

A is for Atmosphere. You probably guessed this one, but I can’t not mention it. The novel of hers that stands out for me in this regard is Affinity, but they all, in their own way, ooze setting. Tipping the Velvet is also remarkable in this regard (even the briefest mention of an oyster in TLS and it all came back)…and it was really hard not to steal the R for Romp for that one: such fun! (Artistry. Awe. Addictive.)

T is for Trials. Which, of course, are not fun. But that’s what makes for the excellent pacing in her novels, particularly evident in Fingersmith, but present in each of her works to varying degrees. Whether it’s an unexpected dog attack leading to a kitchen surgery, bombs falling on London, starvation, abandonment, haunting, or exploitation: the characters in Sarah Waters’ novels suffer. But even if you don’t want to keep reading, you won’t be able to help yourself. (Twists. Turns. Terrifying bits.)

E is for Evermore. Because that makes me think of Poe and creepiness, with just right amounts of rapping and tapping and darkness and forboding, but also a sense of timelessness when it comes to what makes for an everlastingly good story. She knows a good story when she reads one (reading recommendations invariably come up in every interview with her I’ve read, and I’ve recently seen a series of classic crime novels in a bookshop that seem to have been inspired by her love for classic tales) and knows how to write one too. Like many of her readers, I was nervous when The Night Watch reached closer to modern times, but her ability to tell a good story seems to span the decades effortlessly. (Enchanting. Escapades. Eeeek.)

R is for Rogues. Not only because some of her characters are dishonest and/or unprincipled, and openly rogue-ish, but because sometimes one who is not dishonest or unprincipled behaves in an unpredictable way, in a more subtly rogue-ish way. (See T above for Twists and Turns.) But, oh, this makes for some awfully delicious moments. I’d like to tell you about them, but that would certainly Rob you of the fun. (Rich. Riveting. Ruthless.)

Borrowing from the passage I’ve quoted above, reading this writer’s work is like entering a Rather Rarer Realm for me. And, so…

S could be for Storytelling (hers is Superior). It could be for Shivers or Suspense. But in my list S is for Seriously, as in how long do I Seriously have to wait for another?!

Do you have any words to add to bookchat about Sarah W.A.T.E.R.S. ?

My OP 2010 reading stats: 11 bookchatted here, 4 still to cover for sure, 2 that might arrive in time,
3 definitely out-of-reach. I’ll fill in from previous longlists for Mondays and Thursdays until June 9th.