There hasn’t been a book review that I wanted so anxiously to write. This book, this wonderful/terrible/unbelievable book that I’d never heard of, truly stays with you for days, even weeks, after you close the covers. I still find myself reminiscing, maybe even wishing it was longer, but knowing it is the perfect length.
It is not easy to read a book nearly 700 pages long, nor is it easy to read through a slow-burning novel of this type. The kind that digs under your skin without you ever realizing it; the kind that almost makes you impatient with anticipation. Such is The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It is, in many ways, the perfect book, and with an ending that doesn’t disappoint. So, without any spoilers, let’s dive in.
I don’t say this as a matter of bragging on myself; it took me a very long time to finish the book. I remind you of the length for one reason only: to prove the book’s complete power. Some famous writer compared stories to delusions, and the author’s job as keeping the reader in the delusion. This book holds a particularly fragile delusion, and holds you there for an incredibly long time. Perhaps that’s what makes it all the more powerful when you surface.
I still haven’t watched the movie, though I plan to. The funniest part about this book was actually my discovery. If you’ve read my movie review of Us, you remember me saying that I saw it as a pre-showing with two friends and my girlfriend. Before that film, one particularly devious trailer caught me eye, and I immediately wrote down the name of the movie. Can you guess what it was? The Little Stranger, obviously. Try to keep up.
Well, here’s the weird part. Every other movie showed was going to be released within the next month, so I naturally assumed TLA was also new. I did a quick search, bought the book, and dug in. Only halfway through did I think to search the movie, and realized that it had been out for nearly a full year. A full year! Even the DVD wasn’t new; that had come out a few months before I saw Us. So why, oh why, did this trailer show up with the others? I have no idea. And yet there it was, leading me towards the greatest mystery novel I have ever read.
Sounds like fate, huh? Maybe that should’ve been a sign to me that I was picking up something truly special; anyways, it wasn’t, and I expected nothing from the book, just a long, half-interesting read to get me through Spring Break.
The Book *no spoilers*
I knew, almost immediately, that I had something different in my hands. The descriptions were both extravagant and interesting; it wasn’t mindless fluff. It perfectly described the huge manor and Gothic architecture in a way that seemed impossible. Never had I read a book where I actually looked forward to the descriptions! That was my first clue.
Secondly, the author was incredibly smart (or at least her research was very effective.) She described what the walls were made of, the curtains, and dove into the medical practices of the main character, a local doctor in the early 1900’s (I think). I could feel the tension every time he stepped foot inside the manor; I could sense that it was a sinister building, and held much more than the three family members who owned it.
Finally, there is the constant, building tension of the ghost (or is it a ghost?) Every so often, something will happen. Sometimes they are terrible tragedies; other time it’s the simply knocking and footsteps and breathing in your ear. I love, and admire, how the author meshes these occurrences. The book isn’t a single climb to a peak and then a drop; it is a roller coaster, an orchestra, where the sound glows and fades in perfect rhythms.
I am, in general, a very decent reader/writer when it comes to author-jealousy. I am never jealous of their success; in one way or another, it is earned. But when it comes to masterpieces such as The Little Stranger, I cannot help but feel a twinge of envy. Not for the monetary value of the book, but for the literary mastery it shows.
Sarah Waters has, without a doubt, concocted a book with something for everyone. There is medical jargon and flowering description; there is romance and passion; there is social commentary and a deeper meaning; it has intense mystery and creeping suspense; and then there is the ending, a perfectly-timed twist that leaves you wondering if it even was a twist in the first place.
But I could go on and on and on. If I can make one recommendation for this Summer, it is to try to read this book. You may not like all the parts, but you are certain to adore the sum.
So now I will end with this obscure quote from a guy you probably haven’t heard of before, and neither had I… until I read this brilliant saying. It relates too well to this book not to mention.