Book and (sort-of) Film Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

If I have any interest in a book that has been adapted to film, I have a fairly strict book-before-movie policy. This tends to result in me seeing adaptations long after they have come out, because my TBR is ridiculous. This week, I am participating in The Reading Rush readathon. One of the challenges is to read and watch a book to movie adaptation, and it seemed like a great time to finally get to this novel. This meant I watched the film within just a year of it’s release…practically a new release by my standards.

The Book:

This was my first experience with Sarah Waters. I had three of her books, including this one, planned for my 2019 reading, and after finishing The Little Stranger, I am very much looking forward to the other two.

The narrator of the story is Dr. Faraday, son of working class parents who sacrificed to send him to school. He’s built a respectable life as a country doctor in the English village that he came from. In the late 1940s, Faraday is called to Hundreds Hall, a local manor where his mother worked as a nursemaid before he was born, and where he had a memorable visit as a young child. Hundreds has been the home of the Ayers family for hundreds of years, but is in decline post-war, and the remaining members of the family are struggling with a changing way of life. As things get darker and stranger at the Hall, Faraday finds himself more and more entangled with the family and the house itself.

This is a creeping, atmospheric gothic novel. The writing is strong, and Waters has crafted a pervading sense of unease. With mounting tension and beautiful imagery, the revelation of the identity of the ‘little stranger’ is very subtle, but none the less jarring. Parts of the story are slow, but as a reader, I tend to appreciate a well-done slow burn. This book was a delightful experience for me, even if it got a little too scary in parts for me to continue listening after dark. (Disclaimer: I am a weenie.)

I listened to this one on audio. It’s read by one of my favorite narrators, Simon Vance, and is a very good production.

★★★★☆

The Film:

Please note that I am most definitely not a film critic. That said, I thought this movie, released in August 2018, was fairly faithful to the book. It definitely succeeded in bringing the house, the characters, and the countryside to life for me. It’s very well cast, especially with Domhnall Gleeson, who is brilliant and moody as Dr. Faraday, and Ruth Wilson, who is outstanding as Caroline Ayers. The film translated that creepy atmosphere well, and the house used for Hundreds is perfect. I really liked the movie, but everything subtle about the book is lost in the film. It seems like the filmmakers want it to be very obvious to the viewer early on who the ‘little stranger’ is, but just in case it wasn’t obvious enough, they sort of smack us upside the head with it at the end of the movie. This is not a horror movie, and it’s really not even very scary (remember, I am a weenie), but if you like gothic movies and don’t mind a slower movie, I definitely recommend this one.

As is generally the case for me, I liked the book more than the movie.

If you’ve read this novel or seen the film, I would love to hear your thoughts!

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