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The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

Doctor Faraday is a physician called out to a patient in an old run-down Georgian house in the summer of 1947. The patient is a young servant girl with a wild imagination. The family is from another world, a world of glamour and money and condescension, a world which disappeared with WWII but the family are desperately trying to hold on to. The strain begins to show when a fire mysteriously starts in in one of the bedrooms, strange noises are heard through the walls and ceiling and the family discover marking scratched in the paintwork.


As a haunted house mystery I found this didn't work too well, there wasn't enough tension and spookiness. What did work was reading it as a psychological study of a disappearing class in a world they no longer recognised. After WWII the welfare state had a huge impact on Britain, touched on here by the building of council estates and the introduction of the NHS. At the same time nobody wanted a 'lord of the manor' anymore and the gentry were being forced to sell off their land bit by bit just to keep their heads over water. The detail used in the story lets the reader feel the strain the family are under and I was totally engrossed although sometimes the story felt a little slow. I like the ambiguous ending and the question of how much Doctor Faraday himself was involved in the destruction of the Ayres family.