The New York Times bestselling novel that has been called “a tour de force” (Wall Street Journal), “unputdownable” (The Washington Post), “a delicious hothouse of a novel” (USA Today), “effortless” (The Economist), “seductive” (Vanity Fair) and “pitch perfect” (Salon)
“Superb, bewitching…Forget about Fifty Shades of Grey; this novel is one of the most sensual you will ever read, and all without sacrificing either good taste or a "G" rating” – NPR
“One of the year’s most engrossing and suspenseful novels…a love affair, a shocking murder, and a flawless ending … Will keep you sleepless for three nights straight and leave you grasping for another book that can sustain that high.” — Entertainment Weekly (A rating)
“Volcanically sexy, sizzingly smart, plenty bloody and just plain irresistible." —USA Today (4 stars)
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The bestselling Welsh author of The Night Watch and Fingersmith returns with an evocative novel set in ‘20s London. In the aftermath of World War I, an eccentric young woman named Frances and her grieving mother are forced to take in lodgers to make ends meet. Those paying guests—vivacious Lilian Barber and her husband Len—turn Frances’ world upside down, ushering in an unexpected friendship and, ultimately, profound heartbreak.
With two brothers killed in WWI and a debt-ridden father who followed them to the grave soon afterward, 27-year-old spinster Frances Wray knows that she and her mother must take in lodgers (euphemistically described as "paying guests") to maintain their large house in a genteel section of London. In the postwar social landscape of England in 1922, the rise of a new middle class and the dwindling of the old servant class are disrupting longtime patterns of life. The disruptions occasioned by the advent of their tenants, the lower-class couple Leonard and Lilian Barber, are minor at first. But as Frances observes the tensions in the Barbers' marriage and develops a sexual attraction for the beautiful Lily, who soon reciprocates her love, a fraught and dangerous situation develops. Lost in the passion of mutual ardor, Frances and Lily scheme to create a life together. An accidental murder they commit derails their plans and transforms the novel, already an absorbing character study, into an expertly paced and gripping psychological narrative. When an innocent man is arrested for the women's crime, they face a terrible moral crisis, marked by guilt, shame, and fear. Readers of Waters's previous novels know that she brings historical eras to life with consummate skill, rendering authentic details into layered portraits of particular times and places. Waters's restrained, beautiful depiction of lesbian love furnishes the story with emotional depth, as does the suspense that develops during the tautly written murder investigation and ensuing trial. When Frances and Lily confront their radically altered existence, the narrative culminates in a breathtaking denouement. British writer Waters (The Little Stranger) deserves a large audience.
I enjoyed this book but felt at times it was a little slow, feel it could've been shorter. I like her style of writing and characters.
The Paying Guests
I agree with other reviewers that the book is slow at times, but it gets rather fast at other times, and in hindsight the changes in pace make the story much more believable (real life does not progress at a single speed either). The book gives a fascinating glimpse of circumstances and societal currents of postwar England, all delivered with masterful prose and attention to detail. Drama and angst fly high indeed but are completely believable. After a certain point, I could not put the book down anymore. And in the end, I was exhausted but elated by this true work of art.
The Paying Guests
Great story, a real page turner!