Welcome to Mumsnet!

We’re delighted you’ve found us. Join in the conversation on the UK's busiest site for parents

Get started »

August Book of the Month: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

August's author, Sarah Waters, is simply incomparable. She is a writer who can deliver pulse-racing, page-turning blockbusters that also become contenders for the Man Booker Prize. Her historical accuracy and mastery of atmosphere places her reader directly in the scene, whether it be a Victorian asylum or a London bomb shelter. 

Her new novel, The Paying Guests, conjures a shifting, uneasy post-WWI London, where the men and servants are thin on the ground, and attitudes to class and gender are in a state of flux. Impoverished aristocrat Frances and her widowed mother are forced to take in lodgers to pay the bills in their crumbling Camberwell mansion. But when the young married couple arrive, a simmering tension begins to brew between Frances, Mrs Barber and her husband, pulling everyone towards a passionate and devastating crime. 

The period detail, as ever, is extraordinary - Waters makes the past seem entirely present and relatable. Frances is a particularly engaging character: a natural pioneering spirit who is constrained physically, mentally and emotionally by her circumstances. 

A truly enjoyable, rewarding and gripping novel - wherever you are this summer, you can fall into this book and feel entirely transported. 

What the critics said

"You will be hooked within a page -The Paying Guests is the apotheosis of her talent; at least for now. I have tried and failed to find a single negative thing to say about it." Charlotte Mendelson, Financial Times

"So evocative and compelling that all the time I was reading, I had a feeling it was me who had done something terrible, instead of her characters" Rachel Joyce, The Observer

"Brilliantly involving - juicy, beautifully observed" Metro

"A stay-up-all-night page-turner" Glamour

What Mumsnetters said:

"One of her best yet. Very Waters-ish - I was completely, utterly gripped."  FrancesHB

"Sublime writing - you could really wallow in the details." Brice


About the author:

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966 and lives in London. Her six novels - Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith, The Night Watch, The Little Stranger and The Paying Guests - have all attracted prizes, and she been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange/Baileys prizes. Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith and The Night Watch have all been adapted for television, and Tipping the Velvet is also to be adapted for the stage and will run at the Lyric Hammersmith from 18 September to 24 October 2015.

You can find out more about all of Sarah's books, plus interviews and videos, on her excellent website.

Webchat with Sarah Waters

We are delighted that Sarah will be joining us for a webchat on Tuesday 29th September to discuss The Paying Guests, her previous award-winning novels and her writing career. Discuss the book here throughout the month and then come meet Sarah on the night.

Book giveaway

The book giveaway has now closed and we'll inform those who have been allocated books by the end of day on Friday 24 July. If you weren't lucky enough to a bag a free copy but want to join the bookclub discussion, you can buy a copy here.


Last updated: about 3 years ago