Friday, June 12, 2015

Books: The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
Copyright 2014
Kindle Edition Version 1
(560 pages)

Looking at the nearly 1,500 reviews on Amazon, I see a mix of reviews about this book.

If I must give it stars, I give it three stars. This is not a five star book. It was on the New York Times bestseller list and it has received rave reviews, but I am not quite sure why.

To be sure, it's well written. At the end the author lists a pile of resources she checked for historical accuracy. The book is set after the War (although to be honest, I don't know if it was WWI or WWII, because ultimately it didn't really seem to matter that much). If the research is in this book, I am not sure where it is.

I felt manipulated almost from the beginning as I read. The author wanted me to think and feel a certain way, I'm sure, but using third-person limited omniscient to do that seems deceitful on the part of the author. The narrator was not the most reliable and I have never been one to like unreliable narrator books. I could not relate to the main character much, though I think the author wanted us to really like and feel sorry for Frances.

Generally, though, I found her tiresome, and when the book ended with a dull thud, I wished the woman had jumped off the bridge upon which she sat at the end.

Frances and her mother must take in borders because her father frittered away their money, something they learn after his passing. She also lost several brothers to the war, and has forgone a relationship to care for her mother.

The new borders, Lillian and Leonard (note to author - names really should not be so alike, unless you really want readers to mix them up. Couldn't one of them been called something that didn't start with an "L"?), are carefree and different. They are the "clerk class" and as such a lower breed than the upper crust from which Frances and her mother have fallen.

I found it difficult to like any of these characters from the start, and never really warmed up to them. Had my book club not been reading this book, I am not sure I would have finished it. I like internal monologue as much as the next person, but there was too much of it in this long book. I would have like to have seen more of London in the time period, but what little was there was not drawn well and I really had no sense of place as I read. I might have well have been reading about a Martian family after some war on the Red Planet, so little sense of place did I feel after I read this.

Waters is a new author to me, and she is much acclaimed. I must have missed something or perhaps this story came to me at a bad time and I am not able to appreciate its depth and quality. I am sure if that is the case, my book club members will set me straight in a few weeks.

1 comment:

  1. I posted a response to your question about Macbeth on my blog entry.


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