Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

I am not opposed to the slow burn horror story. Two of my favourite films Alien and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining were all about gradually ratcheting up the tension in an atmosphere of intense claustrophobia. For some reason I'm not such a huge fan of ghost, vampire and horror novels but I know many people love those books. I think the last ghost story I read before The Little Stranger was The Turn of the Screw. The last vampire novel I read was Let The Right One In which I enjoyed.
I do like Sarah Waters, though, I thought her novel Fingersmith was great. . .which is a lot of build up before saying that finishing this book was a real effort. The Little Stranger is so slow burn that you aren't pages ahead of the narrator, you are entire chapters, and really it doesn't get into third gear until the last fifth.
It's set in a run down country house in England just after World War 2 in a rather dull and only mildly dysfunctional family who have lost a child. A doctor begins visiting the house and it's through his eyes that we see the events unfold. You don't really need to know much else but actually there isn't much else. I'm not entirely sure what attracted Sarah Waters to this material as it's all pretty thin beer. It's a very English version of The Shining complete with tea parties and vicars. It might have made a great short story or novella but I'm not sure it works at all as a novel.