The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters


Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: 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.

The Review

This was another book that I needed to read for one of my graduate studies coursework. So I’m going to make this as non-academic as I can because I’ll be writing an in depth analysis of this for the rest of the week.

The Paying Guests was the first book I’ve read in full by Sarah Waters and it was definitely one that will keep my reading her work.

This was a stunning story. The setting was vivid and I could see the house, the streets and the back garden like a movie playing in my head. I found myself engulfed in Frances and the situation she and her widowed mother found themselves in, needing to take in lodgers in order to pay their bills. Lilian and Leonard Barber had taken rooms at the house and it’s an entirely new experience for them all. They face all the daily rituals that you don’t think about until you faced with it. For instance, passing each other on trips to the outdoor bathroom, hearing coughs, arguments, furniture moving around and interpreting those odd noises coming from the couple upstairs.

Through all this Frances and Lilian take a shine to each other. First they’re friends and seem to be exactly what each other needs to get through the day. They start to bond over Ana Karenina which my nerdy little heart swooned over. Soon those feelings turn into something much stronger. I was entranced with their stolen moments filled with kisses, want and need for each other.

I literally picked this book out of a bag, so I had no clue what was awaiting me towards the end of this book. I did not expect to end up in a courtroom or dealing with the day to day emotional toll a court case will take on a person. I was so happy that Frances and Lilian were together that this BOMBSHELL broke my heart for them. I’m being deliberately vague here because I don’t want to give anything away, but my poor heart.

Sarah Waters has this was of making you feel for her characters and have you just as invested in an outcome as they are. So when things go wrong, it just really freaking sucks and leaves you feeling just as horribly as the characters did.

So, the question here is: should you read it? Yes. This isn’t full on romance. There’s daily life, flirting, a criminal court case and emotions all over the place. But it’s all in the best ways if that makes sense. Will I finally open up Fingersmith and give that one a read? After I finish this paper, you bet cha!

Get your copy here

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