Sarah Waters is a fabulous author and I've read every one of her books. (Affinity is my favourite, but they are all delicious in their own ways.) The atmospheric 1920s London setting and vivid characters drew me immediately into The Paying Guests. Frances Wray and her mother rent rooms in their house to a married couple in order to make ends meet, then Frances begins an affair with the wife.
Waters is a master at getting me into the skin of her people. That moment of leaving the party feels so real - the undercurrent of attraction between the two women, and that open feeling of possibilities.
The pace in the early part is measured, with the feeling of being drawn inexorably toward some fateful event:
"But the end, Frances wanted to say, was impossible to imagine. It was like the idea that one would grow old, when one was thrumming with youth; like the knowledge that one would die, when one felt full to one's fingertips with life."
|Sarah Waters signing at|
Vancouver Writers Fest 2014.
Another note: I read up to page 282 (out of 566 pages) in my friend Kathy's copy of The Paying Guests (while I was visiting Vancouver in October), and then I started again from the beginning with the audiobook [Books on Tape: 21.5 hours] narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Either way is good.
Readalikes: Alias Grace (Margaret Atwood); Apple Tree Yard (Louise Doughty); The Little Stranger (Sarah Waters); and Slammerkin (Emma Donoghue).