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And our Booker shortlisted October Book of the Month is...THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters (discussion Tue 3 Nov)

(126 Posts)
TillyBookClub Tue 29-Sep-09 09:57:45

Message withdrawn

angelz Wed 28-Oct-09 21:33:32

good book - annoying ending! Looking forward to discussing, need to know what others thought of the ending, I'm still not exactly sure what happened!

sylvev Sat 31-Oct-09 13:35:54

Have I missed the discussion? sad I'm confused, was it 20th Oct or is it 3rd Nov?

I read it in the summer, fabulous book, really enjoyed it.

TillyBookClub Mon 02-Nov-09 10:13:52

Discussion is tomorrow 8-9.30pm - sylvev, hope you can still join us.

The author has been on tour and back today, we're waiting to hear if she can join us tomorrow night.

Looking forward to it...

twoflakesanight Mon 02-Nov-09 14:18:37

Ooh great! I read this as soon as it came out - I loved her other ones. Thought it was brilliantly creepy but then slightly baffled by the end; can't wait to see what others made of it. Hope I can remember what happened...

TBMOM Mon 02-Nov-09 21:08:45

Just finished this book will join in tomorrow's discussion!

TillyBookClub Mon 02-Nov-09 22:02:00

Get ready to put your questions to the author herself - SARAH WATERS will be joining us from 8-9pm tomorrow for a chat. We'll then carry on discussing the book ourselves from 9-9.30.

Very excited. See you tomorrow at 8.

sylvev Mon 02-Nov-09 22:22:00

Brilliant! I can probably make the end of the discussion as have to go to meeting from 7.30, shall try to sneak out early wink

JammyOLantern Tue 03-Nov-09 12:03:40

Looking forward to this, but typical, the author's time slot coincides with my Sainsbury's delivery!

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 03-Nov-09 12:52:36

I couldn't put it down, found it a real page turner like all Sarah Waters' books - and I would never normally read a ghost story.

As always I wanted resolution and a happy ending... but you can't win them all and somehow I never got the feeling that love would conquer all....

I wondered if Sarah believed in ghosts or the supernatural. I don't think I do and yet all the way through I completely believed in the ghosts in the book - I assume because of the way it is written - and got quite cross with the Doctor's voice of reason, although at the same time could see that that's what a rational person would think.

Also did she do research into haunted houses? And if so did her opinion on the supernatural change at all?

angelz Tue 03-Nov-09 15:44:05

Looking forward to this - loved the book, totally baffled by the ending!

MabelMay Tue 03-Nov-09 15:52:56

Someone on here mentioned they thought love would conquer all, but what love?
The doctor never really loved Caroline - he loved the idea of her and of being lord of the manor and Caroline, well, reading between the lines I think she was probably a lesbian, right?
And of course all that poltergeist stuff was created by the doctor's subconscious desires, as per his conversation with Dr Seeley about two-thirds of the way through the book. Of course we saw a bit of his totally irrational side when Caroline called the whole thing off. Dr Faraday was super creepy in my opinion and - once Roderick cottoned on to this and started to question why he was hanging 'round the whole time all those spooky goings-on started.

In other words, obviously the doctor killed (or a phantasm created by his subconscious desires killed) Mrs Ayres and Caroline. And he helped send Roderick mad too. How convenient to be rid of the man of the house so he could work his magic on the two ladies...

anyone else agree with me? nah?

Just thought: am I allowed to post spoilers like this now?
well i won't be here at 8pm tonight so that's my penny's worth.

NecromancyRocks Tue 03-Nov-09 18:08:32

I won't be able to log on much tonight, so I thought I'd post a bit now - hope that's okay!!

I found this novel quite easy to read but not terribly spooky. This could be because I was only able to read it, mostly, in small chunks and as atmosphere is everything with this sort of book, possibly I never gave myself enough time to be immersed in that. Clearly, the house is the real star of this tale and this reminded me of Manderley in Rebecca. In both novels the house is referred to in the opening line so I knew it would be fairly crucial from then.

Mabel - I didn't actually think about the doctor instigating the poltergeist stuff when he had that conversation with Dr Seeley but I did come to that conclusion later when I came to the end of the novel. I suppose his name - Faraday - also suggests he might be 'conducting' an unusual force.

Was Caroline actually a lesbian? Aside from certain masculine attributes and taking a dislike to the doctor (didn't we all?!) I wasn't sure.

There's more I'd love to say but I need to go and I just wanted to ask people who they thought the little stranger of the title actually was - I assume Faraday? Also, how inevitable do people think the downfall of the Ayres family was? Was Faraday himself the most important catalyst or were changing social times, the legacy of the war and possibly hereditary madness (not sure about that one) actually more important factors in their demise? I couldn't decide so I'd like to know what people think.

Finally, I wanted to ask Sarah - what inspired you to write a ghost story, as this has been a step away from some of your previous work? In particular, do you think you were influenced by any specific novels?

SarahWaters Tue 03-Nov-09 19:23:34

testing, testing, 123 (by MNHQ, sarah will be here at 8pm)

policywonk Tue 03-Nov-09 19:24:46

Not read TLS and can't be here for 8pm (SOD OFF THEN I hear you cry) but just wanted to say how much I love SW's books, especially Fingersmith and The Night Watch.

If it's not a terrible breach of Book Club etiquette to ask a question having not read the book, I'd like to ask Sarah: do you think you're part of a literary movement that's rehabilitating the historical novel (Mantel, Susannah Clark, Michel Faber's Crimson Petal stories spring to mind)? Or did the historical novel not need to be rehabilitated? Or do you just reject the entire premise (I'd still love you even if you did) grin

If it IS a big breach of etiquette then just ignore me.

juno60 Tue 03-Nov-09 19:27:55

Hello Sarahsmile

Wow, well done MN Towers!

Hoping DD doesn't put up a fight and I can get back to PC in time for this but in case not.

Just wanted to say, I thought the book was brilliantly atmospheric and a real page-turner (sorry that's a bit R&J, isn't it?!blush)

I did actually feel like I was there - how did you build such a brililant picture of Hundreds?

How do you feel about others comparisons to e.g Manderlay?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 03-Nov-09 19:38:37

Sarah, another advance question or two (and thank you very much for joining us).

Was there a real house that inspired you for this novel, or was it entirely imaginary?

Were you tempted by any alternative endings? It seemed like we were being led into thinking that possibly it was Faraday who was the malevolent force, that his was the "troubled unconscious" consuming the Ayres, but the ending was ambiguous.

Not a question but a comment: the the dog bite scene and the fire in Roderick's bedroom were great. And poor Betty!!

BellaBonJovi Tue 03-Nov-09 19:49:06

Hi Sarah

Just wanted to sneak in an advance question or two.

I enjoyed the book and loved the descriptions of the house, but I did find the ending ambiguous.

At one point I thought I could see the ending coming - Caroline was dead, Faraday had keys to the house and no alibi! Did you consider that - was that a red herring?

I couldn't understand why Faraday seemed to oscillate between desire and hatred for Caroline. Was that the work of the malevolent force?

Or was the force really created by him in some way? After all in the end he got what he desired above all else: the house.

And last question - the one that comes to me as I lock up a dark house at night - what exactly did Caroline see to make her call out: 'You!'?

Thank you.

TillyBookClub Tue 03-Nov-09 20:04:39

Evening everyone

This book throws up so many questions, and now we may just get some answers... I am thrilled to introduce Sarah Waters, author of Tipping The Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith, The Night Watch and The Little Stranger, our utterly absorbing and appropriately creepy October Book of the Month. Sarah will be with us until 9pm, and then the normal bookclub chat will continue after that.

Sarah, thank you very much for joining us. Your books have given Mumsnetters enormous pleasure and much cause for discussion. I thought I would start tonight’s chat by asking: what childhood book shaped you most, and why?

SarahWaters Tue 03-Nov-09 20:07:37

Hello everyone! It's very exciting to be joining you. Thanks for all your interest in The Little Stranger.

Childhood books... Well, I didn't actually read much memorable children's fiction as a child, and though I can recall a few exciting novels - The White Mountains, by John Christopher; The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster; The Silver Sword, by Ian Serraillier - I'm not sure any of them 'shaped' me, exactly. I think I was much more influenced by ghost and horror stories, and one that still stands out for me is 'The Monkey's Paw', by WW Jacobs - a really brilliant little tale, in which a couple make a series of wishes on a shrivelled oriental talisman, with dreadful results... I must have been rather a macabre child. But a lot of that early affinity with the gothic has found its way into my own fiction, and I enjoy feeling that I've connected with my childhood self like that.

SarahWaters Tue 03-Nov-09 20:12:29


I don't exactly believe in the supernatural: I think it's something that, as humans, we have a need to create, sometimes for the purposes of comfort and consolation, sometimes because of guilt or remorse - unfinished business. In a way, that makes it all the more interesting to me: I think ghosts tell us a lot about the people who 'see' them; and poltergeist stories are always very revealing of domestic conflicts and tensions. So yes, I did did do a fair bit of research into the supernatural, and found the stories and cases I read really fascinating. Some are very convincing! But ultimately, I'm drawn to them as an idea. I don't think I'd like to experience anything genuinely supernatural myself - I'd find it too unbalancing.

blimey Tue 03-Nov-09 20:13:25

Hello Sarah!
sorry for being blunt but is Dr Faraday the malevolent force behind all the bad things that happen to the family at hundreds?

NecromancyRocks Tue 03-Nov-09 20:14:06

Hi Sarah

When writing The Little Stranger, did you decide to write a ghost story and go from there or did some other element ( historical setting or specific characters, for example) come first?

SarahWaters Tue 03-Nov-09 20:17:24


As I've said above, I've always loved ghost stories, and there are a few gothic moments in my earlier books - esp Affinity, which is set among Victorian spiritualists. So I saw The Little Stranger as an opportunity to really go for the genre, and enjoy it. I'd like to write another, different kind of, ghost story some time. I was definitely influenced by other ghost stories and films: The Haunting, by Shirley Jackson, The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in Back, by Susan Hill (extremely creepy), the stories of MR James...

But the historical setting came first - specifically, the post-war scene, with all its social changes. It just seemed to me that a haunted house novel might be an interesting and effective way of exploring those changes.

blimey Tue 03-Nov-09 20:18:12

And if so do you see him as entirely dissociated from that aspect of himself almost like an old style "hysteric" or rather as someone who can just lie very well. I wonder who this unreliable narrator is narrating to?

JaceyBee Tue 03-Nov-09 20:19:25

Hi Sarah

Was the last line supposed to be read as a revelation of Dr Faraday being the phantasm behind the hauntings? That's how I interpreted it but I actually liked that it was left fairly ambiguous.

Big fan by the way!

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