Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award 2014
There came the splash of water and the rub of heels as Mrs Barber stepped into the tub. After that there was a silence, broken only by the occasional echoey plink of drips from the tap....
Frances had been picturing her lodgers in purely mercenary terms - as something like two great waddling shillings. But this, she thought, was what it really meant to have paying guests: this odd, unintimate proximity, this rather peeled-back moment, where the only thing between herself and a naked Mrs Barber was a few feet of kitchen and a thin scullery door. An image sprang into her head: that round flesh, crimsoning in the heat.
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.
For 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. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all a wonderful, compelling story.
©2014 Sarah Waters (P)2014 Hachette Audio
moving, thrilling, suspensful
So Many, the ashtray, the verdict
Started off OK, but the more i listened, i thought Juliet really brought the characters to life.
The desparation of francies and Lillan to be happy
Started of a bit slow, But gradually it pulls you in. Sarah waters is just a great story teller.
Started to re listen again.
Engaging, well written and wonderful characters.
Francis, she is a complex and interesting. Not predictable.
Her energy and different characters.
Made tragically boring by extreme length, introverted soul searching that took longer than real time and an array of seriously whiney and unattractive characters. I only continued to listen in the hopes of a last minute twist to the ending which, sadly, did not eventuate.
A little repetitive in part but the story line is good and engaging. The ending is a tad abrupt. Overall I listened to this over several days while walking and the novel was a motivator in my setting out on my walks.
Set in post world war one, Frances a one time radical suffragette now finds her life consumed by the drudgery of housework and family duty. Since the death of her brother and father, she is the main support for her mother, and their downward economic fortunes are her burden. To obtain an income, they let out part of their home to 'paying guests' and soon begins an unconventional love story. However within a short space of time a mixture of 'chaos, bad luck and blunder' results in some devastating consequences. What will happen? How will the characters endure and survive? How will things resolve?
Waters is an extremely good writer, particularly skilled at evoking a powerful sense of history. Usual Waters themes, of class, women's rights, and the stifling nature of 'social roles' for women and men, all appear in this book, and are powerfully portrayed. However, for me, although very well written, this book was overlong, and I found it repetitive. As circumstances for the characters spiralled from bad to worse it became stressful rather than gripping or enjoyable to read. By the time of the denouement I had really begun to dislike the characters to the extent that I didn’t totally care what had happened to them. This might be one book where an abridged version would have been better! I so wanted to like this book, but I can only say that I am relieved that it is over..............
A suspenseful book, that had me totally absorbed - I even found myself dreaming about the plot... and waking up with the same fear as the characters at the height of the drama! Always a sign of a great book when the plot rattles around your head when you're not reading it.
I think this is one of the best 'together' books I've heard. The narrative was so careful and spare, and I couldn't wait to listen to the next part and the narration by Juliet Stevenson was the icing on the cake.
Frances. She seemed so ahead of her time as a woman (but not unnaturally so).
No, I haven't - I will go back and see what else she has done.
Sarah Waters is wonderful. Each book is so different.
"A book full of surprises"
The early chapters reminded me of Anita Brookner’s novels focussing on women of slender means living dreary, sheltered lives. The death of her father has left Frances and her mother short of money and reluctantly they have taken in a couple, Lillian and Leonard Barber, as paying guests. Set just after the First World War the author captures the sombre mood of the time and the nuances of class differences between the hosts and their paying guests. There are hints that Frances is not just the weary drudge of the early chapters but underneath is a woman of spirit who fought for woman’s rights.
Lulled into thinking that this will be a book of domestic and social minutia the narrative erupts into seething passions of stolen kisses and much more. As the author of Tipping the Velvet I shouldn’t have been surprised that the passions were among women. The vicissitudes of illicit love affairs and society’s unfair prejudices against unconventional love dominate the middle section of the book and are the backdrop to the surprising series of events that catapults the book into a crime novel culminating in a tense courtroom drama.
I found this an enthralling novel, well-written and full of surprises that gathers pace such that I couldn’t stop listening as the outcome is far from obvious. My only criticism is that it’s not necessary to portray male characters are caricatures of boorishness and insensitivity to idealize love among women.
Juliet Stevenson is a superb narrator and one of the reasons I chose this book.
"There but for the grace of go I"
Extremely well written and narrated. It is a fabulous book
Guilt overwhelming guilt and a clear portrayal of all the characters perspectives.
Her narration was perfect. The plot was very intricate I may have missed moments if I had read the book
There but for the grace of god go you,I,or any of us
I have read and listened to all Sarah Waters books and I think this is the best even though I loved all the others.
"Sarah Waters at her best!"
Having read some tepid reviews I hesitated before choosing it,but I really loved this book.I've never read anything that gives such a potent sense of that strange and difficult time immediately after the First World War - the research Waters must have done sits lightly in the domestic detail. The plot is character driven and develops to an achingly uncertain climax. I have read and admired Waters' earlier books but have never been so fully engaged as with this one.
"I couldn't put it down!"
Yes! I have already recommended it to quite a few. It has a fantastic, gripping, thrilling storyline and my own life was encompassed by it until the very last page!
All of it!
I have never bought an audio book prior to this but in my job I do a lot of driving and so decided to try it. Juliet Stevenson read the book in a very convincing way with different voices for characters and pauses in all the right places.
I wish I could have spared 21 hours straight to listen to it! Many nights in the week I stayed up late just to hear a bit more of it - it was very difficult to put down!
Fantastic! Buy it now and listen to it!
"Steamy and a bit squalid"
Sarah Waters is undoubtedly a talented writer, and I have enjoyed many of her other works. This one wasn't up to par, although it was saved by an exquisite reading by the sublime Juliet Stevenson. I found the plot a bit thin, somewhat implausible, and the lesbian sex scenes were a bit too purple for my liking. The official characters (policemen and lawyers) verged on caricature. A disappointing story.
"Slow start but good story and well narrated"
It was a good portrayal of the boring provincial life of many women after the war keeping house for their mothers.
The characters were well described and easy yo relate to. I liked the contrast between Frances's posh mother and friends and Lilian's family.
Courtroom scenes were well written, with just enough suspense without milking it it.
"Beautifully writing, expertly narrated, but...."
Fans of Sarah Waters can be assured of a lovely long and absorbing listen. Her writing remains compelling and I cannot fault Juliet Stevenson's delivery. But not her best book in my view.
Set at a time when men have returned from the Great War to find no home for heroes - and when women's hard-won greater sexual equality of wartime has been suddenly taken back from them in most respects. A time rich in possibilities for a novel.
Characters are drawn with care and the plot develops believably, maintaining momentum so that I wanted to keep on listening without pause. And yet, for me at least, something was missing. I cannot quite work out what (and will watch to see if other reviewers help me here) - but it has left me feeling disappointed despite having loved listening throughout. But still way better than most "5 star reads."
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