Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Unspoiled Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is not the type of book that I normally read.   It is surprising that I even stumbled upon it, but I'm glad that I did.  It was named one of the top 100 books of the year by the New York Times in its 2009 Notable Books List, which may be where I first heard about it.  Each year, I eagerly await the Notable Books List, which usually comes out around Thanksgiving.  This year I read lots of books on the list, but of the books that I have blogged about, The Little Stranger, Museum of Innocence, Wolf Hall, and Columbine were named Notable Books of 2009.

The Little Stranger is an old fashioned ghost story.  It is set on an estate in rural England after World War II.  While the story must take place in 1949 or 1950, it feels more like it is taking place in the 1800s.  The Ayres family is committed to dated ideas of class and the formalities that proper people follow.  They are also economizing by not running their generator, and depending on candlelight for much of the story.  Our story teller is the family doctor, Dr. Faraday, whose mother worked for the Ayres family when she was young.  I remember hearing in high school that normal people go crazy, but rich people get eccentric.  The Ayres family is plenty eccentric. 

I listened to this book on CD in my car, and I loved it so much that I was constantly on the look out for opportunities to drive somewhere by myself.  This book was especially good to listen to since it is a ghost story, and stories like that are more often heard around a camp fire than read.  The important thing for me to tell you about The Little Stranger is to not read anything else about it.  The New York Times review and the Amazon Editorial Reviews are full of spoilers that I wish I hadn't read.  So trust me on this one.  Go get it and read.  We can talk about the plot later.  I think that this will be my choice for The Eclectic Book Group to read the next time it is my pick, so I will write more about it then.

Next Up on CD:  Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. 

Still waiting for:  The Hidden by Tobias Hill.  I was really interested in this book after reading the NYT review last year, but apparently no one else was.  My library doesn't have it, and had to order it from another county.  In fact, there are only 4 copies of it available in libraries in the entire state of Michigan.  I requested it last Sunday and am still waiting to get it, which puts me in a strange place because I don't want to start reading another book.  Sometimes when the library gets a book from a different library one is only allowed to borrow it for one week.  That means that if I start something new, I'll have to drop it in the middle, and read The Hidden when I get it.  I know that I should take it as a warning that so few libraries have it, and I probably shouldn't expect it to be very good, but I want to try it anyhow.

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