The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger

Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
From the multi-award-winning and bestselling author of The Night Watch and Fingersmith comes an astonishing novel about love, loss, and the sometimes unbearable weight of the past.

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to see a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the once grand house is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its garden choked with weeds. All around, the world is changing, and the family is struggling to adjust to a society with new values and rules.

Roddie Ayres, who returned from World War II physically and emotionally wounded, is desperate to keep the house and what remains of the estate together for the sake of his mother and his sister, Caroline. Mrs. Ayres is doing her best to hold on to the gracious habits of a gentler era and Caroline seems cheerfully prepared to continue doing the work a team of servants once handled, even if it means having little chance for a life of her own beyond Hundreds.

But as Dr. Faraday becomes increasingly entwined in the Ayreses' lives, signs of a more disturbing nature start to emerge, both within the family and in Hundreds Hall itself. And Faraday begins to wonder if they are all threatened by something more sinister than a dying way of life, something that could subsume them completely.

Both a nuanced evocation of 1940s England and the most chill-inducing novel of psychological suspense in years, The Little Stranger confirms Sarah Waters as one of the finest and most exciting novelists writing today.

From the Hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9780771087882
Characteristics: 463 pages ;,24 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
BookishBrooke Oct 17, 2019

The Little Stranger follows Dr. Faraday, a rural doctor in post World War II Warwickshire, England. After being called to Hundreds Hall (the estate of the Ayres family) to see to an ill servant, Dr. Faraday's life slowly becomes entwined with the family, and their home.

This book reads very much like a cozy historical mystery. There was nothing extraordinarily terrifying, but there is always a slow building sense of tension, like a slow simmer of dread and discomfort. Waters writes beautifully, with description that immerses you into the time period and the atmosphere of the house, making the house into a sinister character of it's own. The story is carefully crafted, in a way that comes across as natural and effortless, and addresses themes of the British class system and Science vs. the Paranormal.

If you enjoy well written historical fiction and are looking for a creepy, Gothic-like story, this may be the book for you.

Aug 17, 2019

Although I enjoyed the writing style, and I never thought about abandoning the read, I can't quite give it a higher recommendation. It's too long, and as I read through pages of details that could have been eliminated (sort of like most of Stephen King's books), I grew less interested in it. Afterwards I am not quite sure there is a satisfying "twist" in there, either. If you are looking for a more straight-forward tale of the supernatural you'll find one in Dorothy MacArdle's The Uninvited.

JCLCatherineG May 13, 2019

I love Gothic fiction but I can't say I liked this book. The story was too long and drawn out and the characters were a bit annoying. For a good ghost story, try any of Wendy Webb's books.

SnoIsleLib_LindseyA Nov 06, 2018

This book took me by surprise. Dr. Faraday is our narrator, but by the end of the book my opinion of him had changed completely.

I've read one other Sarah Waters book (Tipping the Velvet) and I recall being swept away by it, whereas it took me a while to settle into the world of Hundreds Hall and Faraday's voice. The Little Stranger didn't cause "several sleepless nights," as Stephen King attests on the cover blurb, but Waters truly knows how to set a mood through atmosphere. Hundreds is creepy in its deterioration, a reflection of its fading aristocratic family. If there is a "little stranger" within its walls, why is it so angry?

Many of the mysteries of Hundreds are left unsolved, and I find that even eerier than the alternative.

LPL_KimberlyL Oct 10, 2018

Gothic fiction novels are some of my absolute favorite to read, and this is, by far, one of the best. The eeriness of the entire situation slowly envelops the reader, so by the end you feel just as suffocated and paranoid as the characters within the book. This is a story Shirley Jackson would have loved and approved of - perfect for when the weather turns colder and the darkness of the evenings come earlier and earlier.

JCLChristiH May 03, 2018

I enjoyed this subtly spooky story, set in postwar England of the 1940's. Don't look for a jump in your face fright with this one; but, a beautifully descriptive story of the demise of a once great family in a huge crumbling estate with sneaky little suspected supernatural events that might be explained away by "the rational".

Aug 20, 2015

A strange story . I couldn't make up my mind whether the house was haunted or all the family were mentally ill. The ending seemed unfinished somehow. It took a long time to read.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 17, 2014

In post-WWII England, village physician Dr. Faraday is called to Hundreds Halls—a once grand estate that is now in decay and a financial burden on its once grand and no longer wealthy upper class owners. After this first visit, he slowly befriends the Ayres family and begins to witness a subtle malevolent force in the house that seems intent on destroying its occupants. This eerie novel is both a literary ghost story and a fascinating look at postwar Britain at the brink of social change.

Diell Apr 09, 2014

I read this book when it first came out, I think I still have it somewhere.
I'm stealing from a few of the earlier comments as some of them made me remember the book quite clearly.
Yes good development of the characters because after all this time I
remember them and how they related/interacted with each other.
And yes I remember that sense of foreboding, the tension, and my uneasiness and irritation with Dr. Faraday. I remember it was one of those books where I kept saying oh just a few more pages and a few more, then the next thing I knew it was 2 in the a.m. She's good enough
that I searched out the rest of her books. She's good enough that I remembered the feeling of the book
years later. The words used in the other comments are right on, foreboding, dread, tense and disturbing.

ChristchurchLib Jun 17, 2013

"Set against a grim post-WWII British backdrop, this novel focuses on working-class Dr. Faraday, who's summoned to Hundreds Hall to attend to the aristocratic Ayres family. Faraday, the son of an Ayres household servant, has not seen the place in 30 years. Far from the splendour he remembers, Hundreds Hall is a decaying ruin and its surviving occupants - widowed Mrs. Ayres; her war-damaged son, former RAF pilot Roderick; and her "spinster" daughter, Caroline - are troubled by what they claim is an evil supernatural force. Atmospheric and foreboding, this novel balances Gothic creepiness with fascinating commentary on class distinctions, attraction, and perception." June 2013 Fiction A to Z newsletter

View All Comments


Add a Summary
Feb 08, 2011

Dr. Faraday becomes family doctor to the Ayres family, a mother and 2 children in their 20's. Doctor's mother was a servant in Hundreds Hall for a short time. Son was wounded in WWII. Daughter is rather spinsterish. They have one full time and one part time servant. House is deteriorated and they continue to sell off land to live off the money. Servant tells dr. there is a "presence" of evil in the house (the little stranger), soon the son believes this as there are strange happenings mostly revolving around him. Mother comes to believe the presence is her long dead young daughter who died in childhood.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top