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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Compelling Study Of Edwardian Privilege

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

A ghost story set in the late nineteen forties, Sarah Waters’ new novel appears at first to be no more than a thumping good yarn; but it’s a deceptively clever piece of work. Echoes of M R James and Daphne Du Maurier are skilfully blended with acute social commentary and powerful storytelling to create a novel that is always emotionally engaging, often psychologically compelling and sometimes downright scary.

There’s a sense of real delight in the craft of fiction as the narrative develops, building up, layer by layer, the brooding atmosphere of Hundreds Hall, the decaying country house that is at the centre of this tale, and is its real protagonst.

Helplessly trapped in this web of brick and mortar are the Ayres family, burdened with the unaffordable legacy of Edwardian privilege and naively imagining that they can somehow carry on as they once did. But in the world outside, society is changing dramatically and an unconscious but corrosive envy has entered their lives. Slowly but surely it will destroy them all.

The Little Stranger is both a period piece and very modern at the same time; high concept and self-consciously literary; a great story and a snapshot of a world that has disappeared for good. I have read nothing as good as this for a long time.