The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

I have dipped in and out of Sarah Waters oeuvre over the years and I haven’t read them all, this is the last book written by Waters and has been languishing around on the shelf for a long time.

London, 1922, The Great War still resonated around the streets, around the families who have lost people. A large house in Camberwell now holds a mother and her daughter, their father now dead leaving behind debts. The only answer other than to sell is to take in lodgers. The Paying Guests if you will.

The mother Mrs Wray and daughter Frances, have a structured ordered quiet life until these guests arrive. Newly married Len and Lilian Barber, settle in. They are more modern than Frances and her mother and their presence is going to enliven things, that money simply won’t do.

Passions run deep in the house, some are more understated others are more clear but as these four people try and find a new path in life together in this house, it seems that the whole house and it’s inhabitants are going to change forever.

The book starts slowly as domesticity, life after the war, accepting strangers into your house is played out in minute detail. We start to develop thoughts, opinions and feelings for the four main characters. However as the story progress, as time moves on something fundamentally changes for two members of the household that leads to a pivotal moment for the third.

I inevitably recognised where we going to go and was compelled to watch as it all played out. But it was the fallout which intrigued me most. I felt I was holding my breath that everything was going to come tumbling out and the whole world was going to shift on the axis for two of the characters. Of course the beauty of Waters writing is that it already had shifted it was more subtle than recognised.

A book that takes time to read, to absorb all the details, to understand the actions and to think about the consequences. A book that stays with you long after you have finished reading.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Paying Guests has been out for a number of years, and only recently did I feel the need to read it.

2 thoughts on “The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

  1. I like what you say about holding your breath – Waters’ writing is so like that, really keeps you in suspense. I love her novels and I’m impatient for a new one to come out…

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