Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Book Review

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - Reading, Writing, Booking Blog

“The rest of us become narrow and mean when we live falsely. I'm sick to death of living falsely. I've been doing it for years.”

The Paying Guests is written by Sarah Waters and published by Virago.

I’ve never read any Sarah Waters before but I’ve heard good things. Unfortunately, though there is some excellent writing and interesting characters, I felt The Paying Guests dragged on much too long and ran out of steam.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

The Paying Guests is a book of two halves, the first is a love story while the second half is a thriller. My issue is that it could easily have been merged into a much shorter book and still be an excellent read. In fact, I think about a third of the book could have been cut out. There’s a lot of waffle.

Don’t get me wrong, Sarah Waters clearly knows how to string a sentence together. She brilliantly conjures up the changing time of the twenties where society was still suffocatingly structured yet under the surface disillusionment was rife.

She also writes a good romance, there are some beautiful phrases in The Paying Guests and you can definitely feel the tension brewing in this forbidden yet slow burning love story.

“It made one feel like a piece of wax being cradled in a soft, warm palm.”

My problem is the slow burning thing; it’s very slow. I like a good romance; lingering glances and frustration filled meetings and all that, but it’s dragged on for too long. It starts to wallow too much in language and the sexual tension gets a bit lost. As I said before, I think the book could have been cut down a lot and it would still be romantic.

It also takes an age to get into the crime element of the story. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know I’m a crime fan and I was becoming frustrated waiting for something to happen. When it does eventually happen, I’d already guessed most of it. It was still written well by Waters and I could really sense the panic and desperation behind the crime, but, again, the rest of the book just dragged on. I won’t give much away but there is an investigation and trial, which usually I’m into, but half of it could have been cut and it would still have included all the information and some excellent writing.

My Rating: 3/5

I still want to read more by Sarah Waters, everyone says Fingersmith is one of her bests works so I think that’ll be my next one.

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