The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

When Dr Faraday is called to see to a sick maid at Hundred’s Hall, it is with a mix of excitement and trepidation that he begins his journey. Ever since he was a young boy he has admired the opulent and powerful house. Imagine then his disappointment when he arrives only to find that it has fallen to waste and ruin. Walls are crumbling and the garden is over grown. And yet Faraday finds himself drawn to Hundred’s and it’s inhabitants; widowed Mrs Ayers and her two grown up children Caroline and Roderick.

Soon his professional relationship with the family gives way to a surprising friendship, yet Faraday has no idea how inexorably his life will become intertwined with theirs. it’s only when Roderick begins to talk of an evil spirit possessing the house that the doctor realises the dark and dangerous world that he has become a part of.

I don’t usually subscribe to horror stories, perhaps my jaded mind just struggles to accept the idea of ghosts? or maybe I just overdosed on cheap horrors as a teen? Either way I was a little wary picking up this book, and yet Waters is such a brilliant writer I had to give it a go.

Off course I had nothing to fear, Waters allows her story to build slowly, tension first simmering and then boiling to the surface with a plot line that had me on the edge of  seat. I’ll even admit that I read the last half of the novel with all the lights on after checking the lock on my front door several times.

From the very first page I was drawn into the compelling world that Waters builds. I’m a sucker for stories that centre around grand old English homes like Hundred’s and this story was no disappointment. Add to the mix the way Waters deftly portrays the class wars that affected post war Britain and you have a book of many different, intriguing layers.

Dark gothic mysteries mix with burning political questions proving why Waters is such a revered and succesful writer. I really can’t recommend The Little Stranger enough. I’ve purposefully avoided giving away the plot because much of this books talent lies in the gripping ending. However I also really wanted to discuss my interpretation of the book. So below is some SERIOUS PLOT SPOILERS, first time readers of this book please be warned.


So for those who have read this book you’ll know that Roderick is eventually committed to a mental hospital, Mrs Ayers commits suicide after revealing her belief that her dead daughter Susan wants her to join her on the other side. And Caroline is mysteriously killed.

But the big question is this: Was the house haunted? Or was it that the whole family simply went mad? Or was it something else?

After getting over my initial frustration at the ambiguous ending I came to the conclusion that we weren’t actually meant to have a sure answer and that Waters instead wanted us to draw our own conclusions. I personally believe that it was in fact Dr Faraday that was haunting the house because of his sheer determination to posses Hundred’s.

So what does everyone else think? Do you have a theory? Or can you still not decide? Either way I’d love to know your thoughts and to hear your own interpretations.


5 thoughts on “The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

  1. Great review! I read a few of Waters’ novels at uni and have had my eye on this one for a while, maybe when I finally reread the ones I own I will pick this one up!

    • Hi Lindylit, thanks for stopping by, which ones have you read? What’s your favourite? I’ve only read this and Fingersmith, I didn’t think I could possibly love another of her books as much as Fingersmith, this however is a very strong contender!


      • I’ve read Fingersmith and The Nightwatch, but I have only reread the latter. It was good, and had a really interesting backwards narrative, starting after the Second World War and ending just before the war started. It has been some years since I read Fingersmith, but I keep looking at it and promising I will pick it up off the shelf soon.

    • Hey there Skiourophile, you’re right, the atmosphere is amazing and so spooky. Have you read any of her other books? Fingersmith has a gothic feel, but nothing like this.

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