The little stranger

I have just finished reading Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger and, whilst it is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to record some thoughts on it (maybe this is why I should join a book group).

Ever since reading Fingersmith I am wary of Waters’ narrators. I felt betrayed by the twist in the tale and, I think, it was my first introduction to the idea that the narrator may have an alternative motive, and may not be entirely reliable.

There was a point at which I began to feel uneasy about trusting Faraday, the amiable country doctor telling the tale in The Little Stranger. It may have been his willingness to prescribe away every little neuroses; his fascination with the crumbling aristocratic family at the centre of the story; or his facility to infiltrate that family whilst failing to prevent, or even predict, its demise.

Since reading Fingersmith, I have become really interested in the role of the narrator in telling a story, as well as in the narrative structure (something Waters toyed with in her last novel, The Night Watch)


In attempt to convince myself I have done housework, I have rearranged some of my books – in fairness this involved a bit of dusting, so it isn’t so much of leap. I have always strugled with how to group the books I have. I have six bookcases in three rooms and I have to keep books togther which make the most sense to be grouped together. I used to keep them alphabetically by author for fiction, and otherwise by bookshop category (ie. history, philosopy, travel, cookery, gardening, etc.) The a-z for fiction doesn’t work. It means that books are not grouped by size (which looks untidy) and that if you get a new book, or decide to get rid of some, you have to shuffle the whole lot along to make or lose space. It’s inefficient. So I have decided that by bookshop category, then grouped together by author (all books by the same author together) is the way forward. This means I can have books by my favourite authors in more prominant positions, it also means I can group according to size a lot of the time. This makes me happy. Today I have created a new shelf/new group of books spanning philosophy, popular science, critical theory, biography, history and travel. This is my ‘modern life survival kit’ shelf.

Books I’ve bought/books I’ve read

Very much like Nick Hornby’s column in Believer magazine, I am going to record the titles of those books I have bought, and those I have read, along with comment, review and potentially, justification for these.

Go slow England – Alistair Sawday
The moneyless man – Mark Boyle
Free – Katherine Hibbert
The age of absurdity – Michael Foley
AA 50 walks in the Peak District
The pleasures and sorrows of work – Alain de Botton

The Age of Absurdity – Michael Foley

There’s a prevailing theme influencing my book purchases at the moment – it is a dissatisfaction with modern life, with hearing people talk about shopping and Eastenders all the time, with working hard all week, only to be too busy, or too tired to enjoy my free time. I am reading about contemporary thinking on modern society and its obsession with luxury, celebrity and entitlement. There have been some interesting television programmes recently tackling these issues, as well as long-running newspaper columns. I am not looking in these books for an answer, I am looking for inspiration and, I suppose, comradery. I am looking for the voices of people who agree with me, who share my concerns and ideas.

The walking book is for places to visit to escape the relentless consumerism, the slow England book is to plan my next getaway.