Category Archives: GLBT 2010

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Riverhead Books, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.  This book was on the short list for the 2009 Man Booker prize.

This is my second Sarah Waters novel.  It is very much a ghost story, dark and dense with atmosphere, the type of writing Waters excels at.

In 1940’s England Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid, is called to Hundreds Hall, a fine old manor in the countryside. But the Doctor finds the residence of the Ayres family is falling into disrepair.

The story ran on, Caroline and Roderick prompting more of it;  they spoke to each other rather than to me, and, shut out of the game, I looked from mother to daughter to son and finally caught the likenesses between them, not just the similarities of feature-the long limbs, the high set eyes-but the almost clannish little tricks of gesture and speech.  And I felt a flicker of impatience with them-the faintest stirring of a dark dislike-and my pleasure at the lovely room was slightly spoiled.  Perhaps it was the peasant blood in me, rising.  But Hundred Hall had been made and maintained, I thought, by the very people they were laughing at now.  After two hundred years, those people had begun to withdraw their labour, their belief in the house; and the house was collapsing like a pyramid of cards.  Meanwhile, here the family sat, playing gaily at gentry life, with the chipped stucco on their walls, and their Turkey carpets worn to the weave, and their riveted china…from page 25.

Mrs. Ayres, daughter Caroline, and son Roderick are losing control of the land and the house around them.  Roderick, wounded in the war, is trying to manage the house and the farm, and with his failing health, is not doing too well.  Or is it more than his health that is causing this failure?  As the tension builds within this family and within this house,  unexplained things begin to happen.  Dr. Faraday finds himself deeply involved with an outcome he couldn’t possible have expected.  As with Fingersmith it is hard to say more without giving too much away.

In many ways the novel’s tension reminds me of  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James but the time period and the war add a disheveled, chaotic element to the story. There is the tension in the traditional ideas of class that are slowly dissolving around these characters, and certain elements of family history that add to the haunted feel of the novel.  The house takes on a life of its own, it begins to feel alive. Waters skill at characterization shines,  her characters are alive, she has uncovered their fears and fantasies.  She is a master at drawing out the intricacies of human thought and emotion, of getting inside her characters heads.

I liked The Little Stranger.  It is a creepy,  chilling tale.  I will read more of Waters’ novels in the future.

Other reviews:

Farm Lane Books

Regular Rumination

Shelf Love

You Gotta Read This

Did you read and review this book?

20 Comments

Filed under Booker, GLBT 2010, Historical Fiction, Review

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Riverhead Books, New York, 2002

Borrowed from the library.

Susan Trinder, orphaned when her mother is hanged for murder, then left with Mrs Sucksby, a baby-seller, is raised in a house of thieves.  Trained to be a pick-pocket, a fingersmith, Susan’s life changes when Richard Rivers arrives and makes her a deal that, if successful, will make them all rich.  Thus begins a tale of love and deception so full of twists and changes it will make your head spin. Is this novel a mystery?  A ghost story? A romance?

The room was a dark one, like all the rooms there.  Its walls were panelled all over in an old dark wood and its floor- which was bare, except for a couple of trifling Turkey carpets, that were here and there worn to the weave- was also black.  There were  some great heavy tables about and one or two hard sofas.  There was a painting of a brown hill and a vase full of dead leaves, and a dead snake in a glass case with a white egg in its mouth.  The windows showed the grey sky and bare wet branches.  The window panes were small and leaded and rattled in their frames.  Page 69

To quote or say any more is to give away too much.  Waters is a master story-teller,  giving her readers damp, smoke-filled images of Victorian London, creating a sense of the strict divisions between classes in the Manor houses of the country side.  She is brilliant at dialogue, between thieves, men and women, cooks, masters, maids and mistresses.  Each one of the characters in this great, elegant old-fashioned novel became real for me.  And Waters given her readers two wonderful female protagonists, each different, each strong, each unforgettable.  I ended up admiring and loving both of them.

I admit it.  I waited way too long before reading Waters, but I’ll make up for it now.  I just picked up The Little Stranger from the library and will start it in the next couple of days.

Other reviews:

Caribousmom

Eclectic/Eccentric

Rhapsody In Books

S. Krishna’s Books

Shelf Love

things mean a lot

Did I miss yours?

23 Comments

Filed under GLBT 2010, Historical Fiction, New Authors 2010, Notable Books, Review

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

Translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal

New York Review Books, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

I’m sure many are familiar with the Moomins, that wonderful Finnish family of  hippo-like Trolls.  Tove Jansson, their creator, also wrote short stories and novels for adults.

The True Deceiver is a complex portrait of relationship, truth and deception.  It takes place during winter in a small Finnish village.

It had been snowing along the coast for a month.  As far back as anyone could remember, there hadn’t been this much snow, this steady snow piling up against doors and windows and weighing down roofs and never stopping even for an hour.  From page 5.

Katri lives with her brother Mats, and is considered odd, something of an outcast,  by the villagers.  Anna, a children’s book illustrator, is admired and respected by all.  These two form a connection and Katri and Mats eventually move into Anna’s house.  The small town backbiting and gossip begins.  What does Katri want?  What can Anna be thinking?  Is Katri taking over her life?

Anna lay in her bed and stared at the ceiling.  There was a little wreath of plaster roses around the light fixture on the ceiling, repeated in a long ribbon around the bedroom.  She listened.  Heavy objects were being dragged around upstairs and then dropped with a thud.  Steps came and went and the silences that strained her hearing to the utmost.  Now, again, something being dragged and dropped, everything up there changing places;  all the past which had rested above Anna Aemelin’s bedroom as distant and undisturbed as the innocent dome of heaven, was in a state of violent transformation.  From page 76.

Jansson weaves a mysterious, dark tale written in beautiful stark language.  Thomas Teal has done a masterful job of translating and the book conveys the icy cold of winter and the icy cold of distrust and deception.  I have read some of Jansson’s stories and this novel surprised me, it has great tension and depth.  This NYRB edition has a wonderful introduction by Ali Smith.

Other reviews:

Serendipity

Stuck In A Book

4 Comments

Filed under 2010 Global Reading Challenge, Fiction, GLBT 2010

GLBT Challenge 2010

Amanda at A Zen Leaf has graciously decided to organize the Challenge that Dare Not Speak its Name for 2010.

The rules are as follows:
The basic idea of this challenge is to read books about GLBT topics and/or by GLBT authors.

The challenge runs year-round, and there will be three levels of participation:

  • Lambda Level: Read 4 books.
  • Pink Triangle Level: Read 8 books.
  • Rainbow Level: Read 12 or more books.

You don’t need to choose your books right away, and they can change at any time. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.

Amanda and Jen have created a wonderful challenge blog site. There will be prizes and mini-challenges. I’m signing up for the Pink Triangle level.  How about you?

4 Comments

Filed under Challenges, GLBT 2010