Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ghost Story

I wondered Val, whether you would not consider The House on the Strand by Daphne de Maurier, a ghost story? In a rather different and unusual form I grant you, but I feel it fits the genre.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The little stranger

I think this is the first ghost story, per se, that I have ever read, and I did enjoy it. I was not sure what to expect and presumed I needed to pay close attention to the myriad of details and careful description, in order to understand the ‘plot’. I also presumed that the mesmerisingly slow pace and great length is standard for the genre? Luckily she writes well or I wouldn’t have persevered.

Years ago I read Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair, and The Little Stranger brought it to mind: then, reading an article by Waters about her book, I found that she acknowledged her debt to Tey’s work. Valerie and I were desperately trying to remember anything that Waters said about this when we heard her speak at Tonbridge and I now believe it was this link with Tey. I think she also said that she starts with a period and topic she wants to write about (here it is ‘the class tensions underpinning conservative postwar paranoia’) and goes from there.

I found myself sympathising with the plain, large, outdoor Caroline and rather hoped she’d break away and begin a real life. In response to Dr Farraday’s comment that he thought it must be exhausting to be a woman, Caroline replies: ‘It is, if you do it properly. Which is why I so seldom do.’ ( p 270) I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Do I agree? Yes and no: it is exhausting and even humiliating and demoralising if you try to be what your society has decreed a woman should be; but if you believe that being a woman/feminine is just the sum total of what all women are, I guess it’s as easy as being the other sort of human. I wonder if Waters (an openly gay woman) would recognise this interpretation?

But apart from that, there is no other quote I noted: cf Wolf Hall where every page and paragraph informed, challenged or intrigued me. Compared with WH, this is a slight book – but can you compare them?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sara Waters Warning; plot spoiler

The Little Stranger was a skilfully suspenseful novel, in my view, very well written. The story had a slow burn which kept me hooked, even though the plot was a little predictable and I was left wondering if we were meant to believe the rational explanation or the ghostly one. Did Caroline kill herself to avoid passing on the 'family trait'? Was Mrs Ayres delusional? A very young girl left alone in a spooky basement would be quite likely to imagine things. I liked this ambiguity.

I found Dr Faraday as he panicked at the thought of losing Caroline, a little unconvincing in his efforts to marry her. Was it Caroline or the house he wanted? But he had no money for its upkeep. Surely he could sense her reluctance? He was a good doctor and I couldn't believe he would behave as he did. He was being set up as a possble suspect in her murder, with no alibi, but this was a false trail and for me the end was rather a let down.

The writing style suited very well the 'gothic novel' genre of the book, with a strong feeling for the post war period and its privations. Hundreds of large houses fell or were taken down in the last century and many families had to endure watching the decay around them and this I thought was handled well.