This is the story of the Ayres family and their formerly palatial estate, Hundreds Hall. England is changing as the middle class is no longer interested in being servants, tracks of homes are popping up everywhere, and the Gentry can't afford their way of lives any longer. Told by family friend, Dr. Faraday, it's really a novel about the Ayres family's undoing. Are they haunted by the disintegration of the upper crust or is the book's "little stranger" a real ghost?
I first became interested in reading The Little Stranger because I watched a video of Sarah Waters discussing it. To watch a video of Sarah Waters and hear her describe her work is enough to seduce anyone into reading. While I didn't have the same luck with Affinity (yet), I was sucked into this story from the very first page.
The narrator, Dr. Faraday, is a picture of logic and reason without being cold or calculated. He's a nice man who befriends the Ayres family quite by accident and becomes thoroughly entangled in their plight to maintain Hundreds Hall. The other Ayreses are Roderick, the only son; Caroline, the homely, stout daughter; and Mrs. Ayres, the family matriarch. In the midst of their struggle to fund their estate, odd, paranormal things begin to happen causing each family member to take a mental dive in their own way. While I can't say I liked all of the characters (Roderick, blah!), I did feel for all of them and their individual struggles. Dr. Faraday was a rock of strength and normalcy in the midst of all the Ayres madness, so it was nice that he was the center of this story.
The paranormal elements were fantastic, and there were moments that were incredibly and overwhelmingly creepy and troubling. It's a hell of a good ghost story, if we're to believe that the ghost was the problem. Or maybe it was just family madness caused by their class struggles.
Furthermore, the writing was rich and wonderful. Very much like reading The Woman in White or other classic British Gothic novels. There's also a quick Great Expectations reference that made my heart sing. Unsurprisingly. :)
I rarely meet a book that I just don't. want. to end. At all. Ever. I wanted to swim in this one for ages. To float along and be held by it. How long will it be before I find another book I love this much? I can only hope it's soon.
Snuggle -- Skewer
Pub. Date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: A friend sent it.