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The Little Stranger (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Sarah Waters
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Chapter 1, Part 1

I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old. It was the summer after the war, and the Ayreses still had most of their money then, were still big people in the district. The event was an Empire Day fête: I stood with a line of other village children making a Boy Scout salute while Mrs Ayres and the Colonel went past us, handing out commemorative medals; afterwards we sat to tea with our parents at long tables on what I suppose was the south lawn. Mrs Ayres would have been twenty-four or -five, her husband a few years older; their little girl, Susan, would have been about six. They must have made a very handsome family, but my memory of them is vague. I recall most vividly the house itself, which struck me as an absolute mansion. I remember its lovely ageing details: the worn red brick, the cockled window glass, the weathered sandstone edgings. They made it look blurred and slightly uncertain–like an ice, I thought, just beginning to melt in the sun.

There were no trips inside, of course. The doors and French windows stood open, but each had a rope or a ribbon tied across it; the lavatories set aside for our use were the grooms’ and the gardeners’, in the stable block. My mother, however, still had friends among the servants, and when the tea was finished and people were given the run of the grounds, she took me quietly into the house by a side door, and we spent a little time with the cook and the kitchen girls. The visit impressed me terribly. The kitchen was a basement one, reached by a cool vaulted corridor with something of the feel of a castle dungeon. An extraordinary number of people seemed to be coming and going along it with hampers and trays. The girls had such a mountain of crockery to wash, my mother rolled up her sleeves to help them; and to my very great delight, as a reward for her labour I was allowed to take my pick of the jellies and ‘shapes’ that had come back uneaten from the fête. I was put to sit at a deal-topped table, and given a spoon from the family’s own drawer–a heavy thing of dulled silver, its bowl almost bigger than my mouth.

But then came an even greater treat. High up on the wall of the vaulted passage was a junction-box of wires and bells, and when one of these bells was set ringing, calling the parlourmaid upstairs, she took me with her, so that I might peep past the green baize curtain that separated the front of the house from the back. I could stand and wait for her there, she said, if I was very good and quiet. I must only be sure to keep behind the curtain, for if the Colonel or the missus were to see me, there’d be a row.

I was an obedient child, as a rule. But the curtain opened onto the corner junction of two marble-floored passages, each one filled with marvellous things; and once she had disappeared softly in one direction, I took a few daring steps in the other. The thrill of it was astonishing. I don’t mean the simple thrill of trespass, I mean the thrill of the house itself, which came to me from every surface–from the polish on the floor, the patina on wooden chairs and cabinets, the bevel of a looking-glass, the scroll of a frame. I was drawn to one of the dustless white walls, which had a decorative plaster border, a representation of acorns and leaves. I had never seen anything like it, outside of a church, and after a second of looking it over I did what strikes me now as a dreadful thing: I worked my fingers around one of the acorns and tried to prise it from its setting; and when that failed to release it, I got out my penknife and dug away with that. I didn’t do it in a spirit of vandalism. I wasn’t a spiteful or destructive boy. It was simply that, in admiring the house, I wanted to possess a piece of it–or rather, as if the admiration itself, which I suspected a more ordinary child would not have felt, entitled me to it. I was like a man, I suppose, wanting a lock of hair from the head of a girl he had suddenly and blindingly become enamoured of.

I’m afraid the acorn gave at last, though less cleanly than I’d been expecting, with a tug of fibre and a fall of white powder and grit; I remember that as disappointing. Possibly I’d imagined it to be made of marble.

But nobody came, nobody caught me. It was, as they say, the work of a moment. I put the acorn in my pocket, and slipped back behind the curtain. The parlourmaid returned a minute later and took me back downstairs; my mother and I said goodbye to the kitchen staff, and rejoined my father in the garden. I felt the hard plaster lump in my pocket, now, with a sort of sick excitement. I’d begun to be anxious that Colonel Ayres, a frightening man, would discover the damage and stop the fête. But the afternoon ran on without incident until the bluish drawing-in of dusk. My parents and I joined other Lidcote people for the long walk home, the bats flitting and wheeling with us along the lanes as if whirled on invisible strings.

My mother found the acorn, of course, eventually. I had been drawing it in and out of my pocket, and it had left a chalky trail on the grey flannel of my shorts. When she understood what the queer little thing in her hand was, she almost wept. She didn’t smack me, or tell my father; she never had the heart for arguments. Instead she looked at me, with her tearful eyes, as if baffled and ashamed.

‘You ought to know better, a clever lad like you,’ I expect she said.

People were always saying things like that to me when I was young. My parents, my uncles, my schoolmasters–all the various adults who interested themselves in my career. The words used to drive me into secret rages, because on the one hand I wanted desperately to live up to my own reputation for cleverness; and on the other it seemed very unfair, that that cleverness, which I had never asked for, could be turned into something with which to cut me down.

The acorn was put on the fire. I found the blackened nub of it among the clinker, next day. That must have been the last grand year for Hundreds Hall, anyway. The following Empire Day fête was given by another family, in one of the neighbouring big houses; Hundreds had started its steady decline. Soon afterwards the Ayreses’ daughter died, and Mrs Ayres and the Colonel began to live less publicly. I dimly remember the births of their next two children, Caroline and Roderick–but by then I was at Leamington College, and busy with bitter little battles of my own. My mother died when I was fifteen. She had had miscarriage after miscarriage, it turned out, all through my childhood, and the last one killed her. My father lived just long enough to see me graduate from medical school and return to Lidcote a qualified man. Colonel Ayres died a few years later–an aneurism, I think.

With his death, Hundreds Hall withdrew even further from the world. The gates of the park were kept almost permanently closed. The solid brown stone boundary wall, though not especially  high, was high enough to seem forbidding. And for all that the house was such a grand one, there was no spot, on any of the lanes in that part of Warwickshire, from which it could be glimpsed. I sometimes thought of it, tucked away in there, as I passed the wall on my rounds–picturing it always as it had seemed to me that day in 1919, with its handsome brick faces, and its cool marble passages, each one filled with marvellous things.

So when I did see the house again–almost thirty years on from that first visit, and shortly after the end of another war–the changes in it appalled me. It was the purest chance that took me out there, for  the Ayreses were registered with my partner, David Graham; but he was busy with an emergency case that day, so when the family sent out for a doctor the request was passed on to me. My heart began to sink almost the moment I let myself into the park. I remembered a long approach to the house through neat rhododendron and laurel, but the park was now so overgrown and untended, my small car had to fight its way down the drive. When I broke free of the bushes at last and found myself on a sweep of lumpy gravel with the Hall directly ahead of me, I put on the brake, and gaped in dismay. The house was smaller than in memory, of course–not quite the mansion I’d been recalling– but I’d been expecting that. What horrified me were the signs of decay. Sections of the lovely weathered edgings seemed to have fallen completely away, so that the house’s uncertain Georgian outline was even more tentative than before. Ivy had spread, then patchily died, and hung like tangled rat’s-tail hair. The steps leading up to the broad front door were cracked, with weeds growing lushly up through the seams.

I parked my car, climbed out, and almost feared to slam the door. The place, for so large and solid a structure, felt precarious. No one appeared to have heard me arrive, so after a little hesitation I went crunching over the gravel and gingerly climbed the cracked stone steps. It was a hot, still summer’s day–so windless that when I tugged on the tarnished old brass and ivory bell-pull I caught the ring of it, pure and clear, but distant, as if in the belly of the house. The ring was immediately followed by the faint, gruff barking of a dog. 

The barks were very soon cut off, and for another long minute there was silence. Then, from somewhere to my right, I heard the scrape of an irregular footstep, and a moment later the son of the family, Roderick, appeared around the corner of the house. He squinted over at me with some suspicion, until noticing the bag in my hand. Drawing a collapsed-looking cigarette from his mouth he called, ‘You’re the doctor, are you? We were expecting Dr Graham.’

His tone was friendly enough, but had a touch of languor to it; as if he were bored by the sight of me already. I left the steps and went over to him, introdu...

Revue de presse

“[The Little Stranger] reflects on the collapse of the British class system after WWII in a stunning haunted house tale whose ghosts are as horrifying as any in Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.”
Publisher’s Weekly “Pick of the Week” (starred review)

“Waters pulls such a sensational sleight of hand that you can get to the last page of this novel, sigh contentedly, and immediately turn to the first page and begin reading a story that resonates in a completely different register…. Delightfully eerie…. A welcome addition to the Waters canon, confirming her place as one of the best of our contemporary historical novelists.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“A full-on, down-the-hatches ghost story…. Hundreds Hall is as much a characters as any of the humans in the book, animated by Waters’ masterful, highly visual descriptions…. If you read only one ghost story this summer, make it this one.”
The Toronto Star

“This novel belongs in an 18th-century tradition, the Gothic line … timeless.”
The Globe and Mail

“Closer to Henry James than Stephen King…. Waters is a great stylist and a master storyteller.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“A deliciously creepy tale … haunted by the spirits of Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe…. A ghost story as intelligent as it is stylish…. [Faraday] calls to mind Patricia Highsmith’s clever psychopath, Tom Ripley…. Waters has made old bones dance again.”
Washington Post

“Completely absorbing [and] full of mystery…. At the end of the book, Waters delivers a real shock…. Hundreds Hall is a pretty gloomy place, but I was thrilled to spend time there, under the guidance of this supremely gifted storyteller.”

“Sarah Waters has renewed a chilling genre. Just don't read her new book in the house on your own at night.”
Evening Standard

“Terrific…. [Waters] tells a story like no one else.”
NOW magazine

“Masterly, enthralling…. Waters has managed to write a near-perfect gothic novel while at the same time confidently deploying the form into fresher territory. It’s an astonishing performance, right down to the book’s mournful and devastating final sentence.”

“A stunning ghost story that nurtures Turn of the Screw–style ambiguities.”
TimeOut New York

“The spookiest book I've read in a long time…. The ending is perfect, leaving just enough to the imagination, and sending echoes back through all that has come before.”
Columbus Post-Dispatch

“A classic gothic page-turner.”
USA Today

“Sarah Waters is an excellent, evocative writer, and this is an incredibly gripping and readable novel.”
The New York Times

“Waters has yet again written a classic thriller, styled as a classic thriller. It can be only a matter of time before a latter-day Hitchcock turns it into a film.”
The Independent

“Waters’s masterly novel is a perverse hymn to decay, to the corrosive power of class resentment as well as the damage wrought by the war…. She deploys the vigour and cunning one finds in Margaret Atwood’s fiction. She has the same narrative ease and expansiveness, and the same knack of twisting the tension tighter and tighter within an individual scene.”
— Hilary Mantel, in The Guardian

“Waters is clearly at the top of her game, with few to match her ability to bring the past to life in a fully imagined world.”
— Tracy Chevalier, in The Guardian

“Two novels under one cover. One of these is a shrewd and highly readable social history of the late 1940s… [the other] is a classic ghost story of the haunted house, Edgar Allan Poe variety.”
— Fay Weldon, in The Financial Times

“Again displaying her remarkable flair for period evocation, Waters re-creates back-water Britain just after the second world war with atmospheric immediacy.”

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1074 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 508 pages
  • Editeur : Virago (17 septembre 2009)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B002S0KB40
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°100.847 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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5 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Agréable et facile 22 novembre 2009
L'anglais de Sarah Waters est clair et facile. l'histoire : un manoir peut-être hanté qui tue ou rend fou ses habitants est un peu mince pour près de 500 pages.
The english of Sarah Waters is fluent and easy, yet her story is somewhat light to run over 500 pages. An old manor that is perhaps haunted - who knows ?- and that kills its inhabitants. The love between Caroline and Dr Faraday lacks reality. I prefered Fingersmith
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Envoûtant 2 janvier 2015
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Le genre de livre qu'il est impossible de reposer après l'avoir ouvert. Insomnies assurées. Un grand roman gothique contemporain, vivement recommandé.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 étoiles sur 5  404 commentaires
205 internautes sur 221 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Atmospheric Gothic tale 10 avril 2009
Par Z Hayes - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
"The Little Stranger" marks a departure for novelist Sarah Waters, who has also written works like "Affinity" and "Tipping the Velvet" which had lesbian themes in them. "The Little Stranger" does not have such themes, instead it is a well-constructed, beautifully-written Gothic tale that focuses on a crumbling great house in the English countryside. It is post WW II in Britain, and the war has wrought a lot of changes in society - many aristocratic and rich families have seen a decline in their fortunes, and one such family is the Ayers' family - Mrs Ayres is a dignified middle-aged woman who despite her rather impoverished circumstances still holds on to an old way of life, her 27-year-old daughter Caroline is an unattractive spinster who is content to traipse about the countryside in plain clothes with her well-loved dog Gyp, and her 24-year-old brother Roderick is a battle-scarred war vet who reluctantly finds himself taking over Hundreds Hall, the family estate.

Quite by accident, our narrator, Dr Faraday finds himself getting acquainted with the family when he is called in to treat the family's maid, 14-year-old Betty, who is prone to fanciful thoughts and dreams up phantom ailments. Dr Faraday finds himself drawn to the Ayres' not only because his mother was once a nursery maid at Hundreds, but also because he has not outgrown his childhood fascination with the crumbling manor. When Roderick begins to exhibit strange behavior, and starts rambling about poltergeist-like activity in the house, Dr Faraday's initial cynicism is put to the test by the unfolding of more peculiar and malevolent events at the house.

This is not a traditional horror story, but more of a psychological thriller that takes its time unfolding [about a hundred pages into the book in fact], and the suspense builds up slowly yet surely, rewarding patient readers with a complex novel that is populated with well-delineated characters. It would be doing this book disservice if it were to be labelled as purely a tale of the supernatural, for it is much more than that - the book also explores class distinctions as the Ayres' represent an upper class family fallen on hard times, yet still cling on to the old way of life, keeping a maid for appearance's sake, and refusing to let go of the house, even as it drains the last ounces of their financial resources and physical strength.

"The Little Stranger" is also about the dynamics of human relationships - of the complex ties between parent and children [Roderick laments that he has been a constant source of disappointment to his mother], the bonds between siblings, and of human yearnings [for social acceptance, affection etc].

This is not a wisp of a novel but a hefty read, yet I found myself compelled to finish it within two days. I'd rate this as my favorite of Sarah Waters' work because I happen to love highly atmospheric novels and "The Little Stranger" exceeds my expectations on that account. I'd also recommend works like "The Sisters" by Poppy Adams, "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield, and "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton.
36 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 first rate psychological thriller (some spoilers) 29 mai 2009
Par book kitty - Publié sur Amazon.com
**SPOILERS**This is a haunting & frightening story about how one's childhood desires & expectations never truly diminish, in fact if left unchecked, they can grow to such a horrifying proportion that they take on a life & soul of their own.

I read this book twice, the first time around with the viewpoint that this was indeed, an old fashioned ghost story, with the House as the main character.

After the surprise (at least to me) reveal as to the identity of the person responsible for the disturbance at the Hall, I read the book again. Certain events took on a malevolent new meaning. The narrator's childhood memory of using a knife to gouge out a small souvenir from the home & his mother's horrified reaction provided a frightening foreshadowing to the escalating violence that would ensue. Let's just say "Thou shall not covet" is a commandment you really ought to follow.

As for the other main characters, they each played a part in the ultimate destruction of their lives. I felt the most sympathy for Gyp, he alone was innocent in the part he played in the story. I also felt for Caroline, when she realizes the Dr. never intends to take her away from the Hall, she make a valiant (but tragically undermined) effort to save herself.

The rich & darkly vivid writing slowly draws you into the world of Hundreds Hall; you can sense the decayed splendor that the family is surrounded & trapped by.

If you enjoy this book, I would also recommend The Thirteenth Tale & Jane-Emily. Jane-Emily: And Witches' ChildrenThe Thirteenth Tale: A Novel
74 internautes sur 84 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A ghostly novel of in-betweens 29 mars 2009
Par Lilly Flora - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I have very, very mixed feelings about this book, "The Little Stranger." On the one hand I deeply appreciate the excellent writing and planning which went into it and I read through it as fast as I could. On the other hand there never seemed to be an ultimate climatic moment in the book and when I finished it I had the feeling that something was missing. After much thought I am still unable to identify this something.

This will be billed as a historica suspense/ghost story and while that is an accurate description of the book it is really a novel of people and places stuck in-betweens. It is shortly after WW2 and in England the minor aristocracy are going through changes. This is particularly true for the Ayres family who live in the once stately Hundreds hall. But now most of the money is gone, the land is being sold off piece by piece and the hall itself is turning into a crumbling ruin. Living there are Mrs. Ayres and her two grown up children, who aren't adapting very well to the new, more democratic world. With one maid left who still wears the uniform the Ayres are firmly stuck in place between the pre-war world and the post war one.

Into their lives comes our narrator, Dr, Faraday, a bachelor in between youth and middle age and between his roots as a poor boy whose mother was a nursemaid at Hundreds and the country doctor he is now. Quite by accident he is called to see to a medical situation at the hall and slowly begins to become friends with the family. Mrs. Ayres, a woman physically barely on the brink of being elderly but mentally lost in the past, Roderick, her son and lord of the manor who was badly injured in the war and Caroline, the unfeminine, plain speaking daughter.

Faraday seems to be caught between resentment at the Ayres hanging on to a dead life style which makes him beneath them and jealously at their (crumbling, but once grand) social position. Either way he can't tear himself away from the Hall. And then strange things begin to happen.

The rest goes the way of a typical ghost story-strange happenings, both annoying and violent, a sense of dread, of the House being alive, as well as a more intellectual scoffing at al matters supernatural. Through it all Faraday is our window into the world at Hundreds Hall.

Like I said earlier the writing in this book is very good. I pretty much raced through it. But for some reason the ending left me very dissatisfied-maybe because this isn't a grand, story kind of novel but more about an strange episode in an otherwise ordinary man's life.

I've only read two other Sarah Waters' novels but "The Little Stranger" is very similar in atmosphere to Affinity-both are gloomy books that always seem to be in decaying gray environment.

Four stars. If you like this you'll probably want to read The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel Or vice versa.
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Compelling psychological novel of class and change 31 janvier 2010
Par Kristen Hannum - Publié sur Amazon.com
Half way through this book, about midnight last night, I found myself amazed by the author's skill in keeping me compulsively reading EVEN THOUGH NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. This is smart and polished writing. The Little Stranger is incredibly evocative, well researched, insightful - a great psychological study and sociological analysis in the skin of a ghost story.

Publishers these days aim to please book groups with questions for discussion at the end - the last book I read was Sarah's Key, a pleasant, unchallenging read that hardly needed a key for discussion. I'm not sure what there would be to discuss there; it's that straightforward. Not so for The Little Stranger. This book cries out for a readers' key, beginning with:

Is this a ghost story?

Is it a book about politics? Psychology?

Is the narrator reliable?

Who is `the little stranger'? Is that a good title for the book? Why `stranger'?

Did Caroline figure out the truth, in the book in her father's library?

How is the party a turning point?

Is the last line of the book key?

Is it possible that our subconscious can do evil - or good - in the world? Subconscious implies that we're not aware of it, that it's not `on purpose,' right?

Are we responsible for our unconsciousness?

What makes a book scary? There are two paranormal explanations for what is happening at the house. Which is scarier?

Were there sympathetic aspects to the disappearing class system with its strict class divisions? Were the Ayres sympathetic characters? What aspects of class division are still with us?

Why did Waters begin her book with Faraday's visit to Hundreds Hall as a boy? Was what he did as a boy a foreshadowing?
92 internautes sur 111 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 The fall of the House of Ayres 12 avril 2009
Par Pippa Lee - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
It is curious how one can do things by the book and still miss the target. "The Little Stranger" is such a case. It is promoted as a ghost story and it has all the elements for it: a character living in the past, another one going mad, and of course, the rational one. There is the isolated old mansion falling in disrepair, with furniture coming alive and writing appearing on the walls. However, by the time I got to the end of the book, the first thing that came to my mind was "So what?" And it's a pity because Sarah Waters is a talented writer. This is the first time I've read one of her books and her gift for description took me away. Waters spends pages and pages describing Hundreds Hall with precise detail to recall its former grandeur and to capture its current dilapidation. In this mansion with leaky ceilings and musty carpets lives the Ayres family: Mrs. Ayres, a widow who longs for the old days of her family glory; her son, Roderick, a veteran who is still suffering both physically and mentally from his war injuries, and his sister, Caroline, a young woman who desires a life of her own. Into this small circle, comes Dr. Faraday, who becomes the family doctor but his role as their confidant stirs up mixed feelings in him.

Waters moves the story at a leisurely pace, tarrying with descriptions of the grounds, nooks and crannies of Hundred Halls. She spends 3/4 of the book to build up a convincing but somewhat predictable ghost story and then in the last quarter, she introduces an alternate theory to explain all the strange going-ons in the Hall. At first I took this Mr. Hyde-like explanation as a feeble attempt to justify the ghost's procrastination. It took 25 years for it to show up to haunt the family. But as I kept reading and realized where the story was going, I began to lose interest. Waters probably introduced this theory to provide for an unexpected final twist but it did not quite work out. It came too late into the story and without the author's having built a case for it, it struck me as forced and unconvincing. Worst of all, it undermined what the story had accomplished in the first 3/4 of the book and by the time I reached the ending, I have stopped caring for the characters and the whole plot has fallen flat too.

It is unfortunate that "The Little Stranger" doesn't live up to its expectations because the writing is very good. Sometimes I think this book could have been better without its supernatural elements. But then, that's just a wishful thought. Sarah Waters is a gifted writer, and I hope her next book will be a much better rounded one. As for this ghost story, my final grades are: four stars for the writing; two stars for the plot.
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