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.

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?