curling up with a good book #2

books 02

I think it was Cathy who mentioned a Sarah Waters’ novel a few months ago in one of her Yarn A-long posts.  I had never heard of Sarah Waters, so decided to give her writing a try.

The titles that grabbed my interest were the above.  And the one I read first was:

“THE PAYING GUESTS” – Sarah Waters (2014)

(summary from back cover)

It is 1922, and in a hushed south London villa life is about to be transformed, as genteel widow Mrs Wray and her discontented daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.  Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class”, bring with them gramophone music, colour, fun – and dangerous desires.  The most ordinary of lives, it seems, can explode into passion and drama . . . A love story that is also a crime story, this is vintage Sarah Waters.

Now, I really didn’t know what to expect when I turned the first page.   I was therefore  probably expecting something rather prim & proper, what with the story being set in the 1920s and one of the main characters appearing, at a first glance, to be a rather dried up spinster.  All I can say is: first impressions are deceiving lol.  Sarah Waters paints a vivid picture of London, barely recovered from WWI, still grieving the deaths of sons and fathers . . . the “what will the neighbours think?” society where appearances matter . . . subtly introducing a passionate love affair, violent death, and the most rivetting criminal investigation.  I just couldn’t put this book down.  Without giving anything away . . . I was rooting for Frances all the way, biting my finger nails with worry, grateful that police forensics in the 1920s weren’t what they are today and all the while convinced that it could only end in tears.

Definitely a 5 star read.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“THE NIGHT WATCH” – Sarah Waters (2006)

summary from back cover)

Tender and tragic, set against the turbulent backdrop of wartime Britain, “The Night Watch” is the extraordinary story of four Londoners: Kay, who wanders the streets in mannish clothes, restless and searching . . . Helen, who harbours a troubling secret . . . Viv, glamour girl, recklessly loyal to her soldier lover . . . and Duncan, an apparent innocent, struggling with demons of his own.  Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit liaisons and sexual adventure, to end with the beginning in 1941, this is an astonishing novel.

I picked up this Sarah Waters novel because I rather liked the idea of the novel working in reverse chronological order, and the fact it was set during wartime London.  However, I don’t think the idea to begin in 1947 and move back in time to 1941 really worked.   I found it quite a good read.  Could tell that Sarah Waters had done lots of research to get things historically correct, and she again makes use of the historical setting to draw our attention to certain things (eg abortion, suicide and homosexuality) which were illegal at the time.  Characters were all likeable but  not enough to really grab me  Only 3 stars for this.  It was a good bed-time read, but  really wasn’t the same standard as “The Paying Guests”.

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6 thoughts on “curling up with a good book #2

  1. I think it was me who recommended Sarah Waters to Cathy as she is one of my favourite contemporary authors (after Kate Atkinson of course).
    Funnily enough, I think I preferred ‘The NIght Watch’ to ‘The Paying Guest’ although I like all her novels.
    You should try ‘The Little Stranger’ next – very Gothic. A slow burner but worth it. A ghost story but also an examination of class in post war Britain. I keep meaning to seek out last year’s film adapation but haven’t got round to it yet.

    • ah must have zapped your Sarah Waters recommendation ^^ Have never read any Kate Atkinson, so that’s another author to look out for!

      • My favourite of Kate Atkinson’s, probably because it was the first I read, is ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ but, more recently,’Life After Life’ followed by a sort of companion piece ‘A God in Ruins’ are both excellent. Although, as you like detective stories, you would probably also like her Jackson Brodie series which starts with ‘Case Histories’. I’m so envious that you still have them all to enjoy although I can very easily re-read them all again which I don’t say very often.

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