I disliked Fingersmith when I tried to read it several years ago, and it took me several attempts to plod my way through the book. I hoped that I would enjoy The Little Stranger more, as the premise sounded marvellous. What’s not to like about a post-war country house in the middle of nowhere, where odd goings on threaten the wellbeing of a once well-to-do family?
As I half suspected it would, it took me quite a while to get into the story, as it begins with over 100 pages of prose in which very little happens. Even when the book did pick up for me, I found that there were still some rather dull passages and chapters throughout, which did not seem overly relevant in the grand scheme of things. This made the entire novel feel inconsistent, somehow. I feel that The Little Stranger would have been a far better read as a shorter novel, or even as a novella. The restrictions on space would have made the tale incredibly atmospheric, and as creepy as it should have been. As it was, all of the otherworldly happenings within the fabric of the house were rather diluted by stodgy, repetitive prose – just what I remember disliking about Fingersmith.
I didn’t much like the narrator, Doctor Faraday, which barely endeared me to the book. His voice was overdone at times, and rather unrealistic. He was rather too pompous to warrant my sympathy. He was horribly dismissive and unsympathetic towards almost each and every person he met throughout the story. I hated his ‘I am a doctor, and thus I am always right’ attitude, as often, the decisions he made were rather awful ones.
The decay of the grand house and the Ayres family is well done, and Waters has clearly put a lot of thought into this element of the novel. I also really enjoyed the ghostly element. However, there were other aspects of The Little Stranger which were most unlikely and rather unnecessary – the love story, for example. It seemed to spring from nowhere, and had no foundations with which it was held. I felt that overall, the novel was not tied up as well as it could have been, and there were a few loose threads throughout. On the basis of this and Fingersmith, I doubt I shall be reading any more of Waters’ books in the future.