I'm always on the look-out for new books to read. And as you may recall I LOVE a good ghost story. Especially now that the evenings are getting darker and colder, there's nothing like snuggling up to a good, shivers-down-your-spine kind of book. Apart from snuggling up to a good man that is. Who should also be of the shivers-down-spine variety, but in a different way. You catch my drift.
Because of my love of a nice chilling tale I was elated to find a recommendation for Sarah Waters' book 'The Little Stranger' on Paula's blog. As I was unfamiliar with the author and her work (which I'm now willing to admit is gross negligence on my part), I would have completely missed this book otherwise. And that would have been a great pity, as I find Sarah Waters does know how to tell a story. The kind that draws you in and stays with you long after you've put the book down.
The Little Stranger is set in rural Warwickshire in the period after WWII. A country doctor is called to Hundreds Hall, the estate of the Ayres family, to tend to a servant. This visit marks the beginning of a friendship between the lonely doctor, whose own mother was at one time a maid at Hundreds, and the once grand but now impoverished Ayreses. Still, the difference in class is never quite forgotten - by either party. Then eerie things start to happen at the Hall, ever increasing in magnitude and (pause for dramatic effect) malevolence.
This is truly a gripping tale, that leaves you feeling somewhat unsettled. Even though its main characters are not always likeable, you can't help but feel for them. Each one of them is in his or her own way struggling with feelings of loneliness and the seeming hopelessness of their situation. In all, this is so much more than 'just' a ghost story. And I didn't suspect the answer to the mystery till relatively late in the book - whereas I can usually tell how a plot will turn out from miles away (she says smugly). There are some parallels with the Turn of the Screw, where you are made to wonder how much is actually only going on in the head of the governess. The Little Stranger does provide a clear answer to that question in the end.
Although I had been warned this story could become quite unnerving, I blissfully ignored the heads up - as you would have guessed - and only started reading it at 10 PM the day it came in. And found that I couldn't put it down till I really had to get me some sleep - at about 2 AM. By which time things in the book had gotten rather spooky. So spooky in fact that I started hearing every little sound in the house after I turned out the light. If ever that happens to you - I've got the answer.
Head over to YouTube and watch this clip of Billy Connolly and his take on hauntings. I'm telling you, you cannot still be spooked after watching this. A word of warning to those unfamiliar with the Big Yin: he does have a certain fondness for strong language. That is a euphemism, yes. Well spotted.
I do so adore him.