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The Paying Guests
The Paying Guests
Author: Sarah Waters
From the bestselling author of The Little Stranger and Fingersmith, an enthralling novel about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London. — It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa...  more »
ISBN-13: 9781594633119
ISBN-10: 1594633118
Publication Date: 9/16/2014
Pages: 640
  • Currently 2.9/5 Stars.

2.9 stars, based on 38 ratings
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 117
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Paying Guests on + 175 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Love. Drama. Crime.

Frances Wray and her widowed mother live in genteel poverty on Champion Hill -- it's just south of London and still considered a fashionable district in 1922. Unfortunately, Mr. Wray died with substantial debt and the two women are forced to acquire paying guests to sustain their quiet lives without hired help or funds for upkeep of the decaying house. The young, new renters, Leonard and Lilian Barber, take up residence in rooms on the upper floor and soon create a seismic shift in the lives of the homeowners. Frances, in particular, finds herself caught up in a sudden new passion as she watches the tenants, does the chores, and tries to maintain the sparsely furnished spaces where she and her mother languish. While Leonard is at work as an insurance clerk, Frances and Lilian forge a relationship that invariably leads to a crime, an unanticipated challenge, a moral dilemma, and a quandary with implications that mean the difference between being caught in a trap or gaining freedom.

I vacillated between a 3 and a 4 rating on this one and settled for 3.5 -- I haven't felt this ambiguous about a novel for quite some time. That said, the slow buildup and the storyline were enough to keep me coming back for more even as I was wishing that Waters would step up the pace of the narrative and move along, stop repeating herself, and get to the end a little faster. That's not to say that I found this tale suspenseful even though I think it is meant to be. It was more like having something continuously dangled nearby but out of reach almost to the point of frustration and annoyance. This was not a mystery, per se, as the reader knows exactly what happened but it takes a slow, infuriating and somewhat exasperating while to get to the climax. The resolution was absolutely fitting even as I was on tenterhooks as I continued reading even faster to see if the author would make that choice.

I've read a couple of this author's other books and always enjoy her unique stories and settings. I'd recommend this to fans of Sarah Waters and those who enjoy a bit of sinister with their
reviewed The Paying Guests on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I'll admit, after reading a reviewer say she couldn't put this book down, I was confused. The first few chapters provided insight into post war life in London - nicely written and insightful, but hardly getting under your skin.

But wait, because the Author continues to peel away layers of the characters' personal thoughts, fears and passions in a way, that does get under your skin. Eventually you are treated with a palpable heat coming off of each page.

The story develops into a crime theme, that starts out rather unbelievable. And then develops in ways you would least expect.

All in all, a most enjoyable read.
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