I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old.
–Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger - c.2009
The story opens with a happy scene at Hundreds Hall, our narrator is remembering how grand the house was. How impressive it was to a small child visiting from a poor family. Thirty years later when Doctor Faraday next visits the place it is very different. Gone is the grand mansion, in its place is a crumbling house and estate continually losing money with no way out. The family are still important in the neighbourhood, they may have slipped, but they are still trying to act the part.There then follows a slow, but engaging, build-up where Faraday gets to know the Ayres family that own Hundreds Hall. He begins to treat the son, Roderick, for a war wound. He takes an interested in the daughter, and converses with the mother. He almost becomes part of the family.
And all the the time he notices how the house has fallen, has decayed, and yet it still has a pull on him. That early childhood awe never really goes away.
But is there something supernatural going on? Is there a malevolent force? Or a mischievous sprite? Well, I’m not going to answer that question.
I enjoyed reading this book. A lot. The narrator is so very attempting to upwardly mobile, and so enamoured of the upper classes while resenting them at the same time. He really is horrible, and yet you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him at time.
I did think that the first person narration didn’t work in places though. Faraday tells us about things that he couldn’t possibly have known, and that dragged me out of the story a bit. Although you could argue that maybe he didn’t know it, he just speculated or relates to us what he was told. But, in certain chapters, I did find myself wondering how on earth Faraday was narrating things.
As I said, I liked a lot of this book. It has an excellent brooding feel, very atmospheric and a slow creep to it. I wouldn’t call it an outright horror, certainly not at the start, but it does get very creepy. Unfortunately I didn’t like the ending.
But until I do manage to get to that reread I’ll have to say that I didn’t like the ending at all. I needed some little bit of closure.
Check out The Estella Society’s post for links to all those who participated in the readalong.