The Paying Guests

By Sarah Waters
Binding:Hardcover
Publisher:Riverhead Hardcover, (9/16/2014)
Language:English



Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.50 out of 5 (2 Clubie's ratings)


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From the bestselling author of The Little Stranger and Fingersmith, an enthralling novel about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

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.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction, and here she has delivered again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place, The Paying Guests is Sarah Waters’s finest achievement yet.
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Ceci's thoughts on "The Paying Guests"
updated on:11/2/2014

Much happens in THE PAYING GUESTS, much of it pleasantly unexpected. It just happens very slowly. I was sometimes breathless with anticipation wondering what would happen next for Frances and Lily and Leonard Barber, but I could have passed out while the story meandered along to resolution. A little tension building is wonderful. Lollygagging deflates that tension like a day-old party balloon. Waters’ gorgeous writing did ease my pain. When Frances first recognizes the shift in her relationship with an acquaintance to something more: “It was like the white of an egg growing pearly in hot water, a milk sauce thickening in the pan. It was as subtle yet as tangible as that.” Then, when Frances fears that relationship has ended: “Would she return to her old life . . . like a snake having to fit itself back into a desiccated skin?” The entire book is like this – spot-on, insightful descriptions, clean, crisp dialogue, and a smooth interweaving of social, economic and political issues. But oh, the exquisite misery of a beautifully written, but slow-going story. As much as I appreciated and enjoyed the standout materials of this book, I still heard my internal voice shouting “get on with it” a few too many times.

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Paying Guests"
updated on:10/30/2014

There is tons to discuss in this book. Tons! Which makes it perfect for a book club pick, but if you are not in a book club, SKIP IT!!= I mean, the writing is very good and quite fitting for the time period. The Lesbian love scenes were pretty steamy, so if you are into any kind of romance this should work for you. The overall falling in love part was nicely handled. The “murder” and mayhem were quite sufficient. That said… ugh! This book was way too long and I could not wait for it to end.

Actually, first I could not wait for it to START - as in nothing that interesting happened until 38% into the book! That is correct. THIRTY-EIGHT percent! Now, when we pick the official book pick each month for BB we look at several books before the final decision is made. So, by the time I actually get to reading the book, I have often forgotten what it is all about. As was the case with this book. It is kind of fun to read like that, as you don’t know if you are reading a ghost story or a romance or a thriller or what. So as I started to read the book, a scene would start, and I would get all excited thinking, "THIS is the scene that something dramatic is going to happen and start to propel this story forward…" But time and time and time again it was, "nope, nothing that interesting happen there either." This happened again and again until 38% into the book, and this was a 568 page book! Did you notice how I said time and time and again and again twice and then now am talking about it again. Well if you like that sort of thing then you might like this book. Jiminy Crickets, we get the point, move on!

Okay, back to the 38%… well, that is a lot of blah blah blah to get to some juicy bits. Then there was a ton of drama, then there was a ton of “will they get caught?… nope, Oh, but will they get caught?…. nope…oh, will they confess? Nope… Oh, will they confess?… Or, will they get caught? (You’ll have to read it to see if they get caught or confess),” but basically replay and replay that loop for the rest of the book. Agh!

By the end I wanted them caught, murdered or something in-between because I couldn’t even stand these whinny girls anymore. Talk about over thinking, over analyzing, over saying the same thing over and over again, and narrating too many details! Agh! I kept wanted to tell them to “shut up (their thoughts) and get on with it!” Send them to the chair I just did not care anymore! Actually, sit in an electric chair while you read this so you can zap yourself every once in awhile to stay awake while you read it. Snooze! I’ve never been so thankful for insomnia in my life as it allowed me to get through the book.

…. um, I don’t mean to be this mean about it… If they had chopped out at least 100 pages I think it would have made the book into a REALLY good book. So if you have more patience than me, pick it up. It is highly discussable. And, the book cover is gorgeous, so props for that.

Mildly Unleashable


"The Paying Guests"
By Sarah Waters

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.50 out of 5 (2 Clubie's ratings)


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Sarah Waters is the author of Tipping the Velvet, a New York Times Notable Book; Affinity, which won her the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award; Fingersmith; and The Night Watch, both of which were shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize. She has also been named one of Granta’s best young British novelists. 


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