Eighteen Whodunit members turned out for the meeting on this damp and chilly evening.
The novel discussed this month was "The little stranger" by Sarah Waters. Including one vote made in absentia, the club's average rating for the book was 7.194 out of 10.
Like the familiar saying "Those who loved it, loved it a lot". Those who didn't, didn't. The reaction to the novel was polarized, with members voting either very high or very low.
The author, Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966. She earned her PhD in English literature in 1995 and soon after starting writing novels. Her books have been in the running for several prestigious literary awards including the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger and the Lambda Literary Award for Fiction, and were shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize. A lesbian herself, she often portrays lesbians in her novels although she didn't in "The little stranger". Her fifth novel, it took her two and half years to write.
See her online interview discussing the writing of "The little stranger".
Positive praise from Whodunit members included such comments as "well-written"; "suspenseful"; "great characterization"; "great sense of place".
Negative comments included "too much detail"; "too long".
Written with consumate skill, the story was absorbing and could be interpreted many different ways. Hundreds Hall, the decaying house featured in the novel was a character unto itself and many said that they could perfectly picture it in their mind's eye.
Doctor Faraday, a rural physician and a bachelor, seemed to have aspirations to own the house with the elevated status it represented -- and some mentioned that he could be interpreted as 'the little stranger' as he visited the house as a child when his mother was a servant there. (Incidentally Sarah Waters' grandparents worked as servants in an English country house). A member commented that there is a 'little stranger' in all of us - that it is the dark part of our personality.
The setting was written so well that the reading of the novel was almost a visual experience. The novel was set in a time when there was a distinct and impassable divide between the social classes and the author aptly describes the social mores and customs of the time period. Somewhat gloomy and dark, Sarah Waters describes her work as being somewhat Dickensian.
The novel can be read as a gothic ghost story; a supernatural thriller, a psychological character study, or a historical mystery novel. All would be correct and the author leaves the decision up to the reader.
Congratulations to the lucky winners of five free novels this month:
Brenda (welcome back!)