Like you were at the book club but without the cake or the spoilers
This month the book club read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, another break from Waters’ previously self-proclaimed pigeonhole of “Victorian lesbo romps” (which is definitely a genre I’d like to see added in Waterstones). And weren’t we all thoroughly disappointed to find out how totally lacking in said Victorian lesbo romps it was: I didn’t go to book club to discuss literature, Goddamn it!
The Little Stranger is a gothic and ghostly tale set in post-war Warwickshire in the dilapidated and slowly crumbling grand country estate of the Ayres family. The occupants of the house are the ethereal widowed lady of the estate and her two grown children. As our narrator, Dr Faraday, becomes gradually more entangled with the lives of the Ayres family, we witness through his account the decline of the house and its inhabitants.
The novel takes a little while to get going, a few book clubbers mentioned getting to the hundred-page mark and still not feeling like anything much had happened. However, once you are into the action it really does become very gripping – we had one book clubber admit to binge reading the book and finishing it at 2am! The gothic style can at times be fairly heavily borrowed from other gothic authors such as Henry James, Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe but it is certainly no less ghostly for all that.
Although many book clubbers did mention how creepy and scary the story is Waters didn’t actually set out to write a ghost story. Being an incredibly thorough researcher she had enough material left over from her research for The Night Watch to fill another entire book so she started this one on the theme of class structures in post-war Britain. It’s a theme that seems to seep through the pages rather than thrust itself too obviously into your face. As a reader you never seem to come to any real conclusions on where she stands on this issue.
Book clubbers had a veritable smorgasbord of views on the ending. With probably about four or five interpretations doing the rounds; from the true supernatural, Freudian projections to deliberate misinformation on the part of our narrator it’s obvious that the ending is somewhat open to interpretation. However no one was unsatisfied with the ending and this seems to be Waters main strength in the gothic genre, she’s happy to keep you guessing and you’re happy to continue guessing.
The next book club is Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham which I’m sure will lead to strident feminist rants all round which I for one cannot ruddy wait for. It’s going to be on Tuesday 20 April, you can check the details in ‘Upcoming Events’. Can’t wait to see all your little faces there!
Blog by Jodie Major for Shoreditch Sisters WI