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The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters


Overview - 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.
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More About The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
 
 
 
Overview
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."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781594633119
  • ISBN-10: 1594633118
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • Publish Date: September 2014
  • Page Count: 576
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Historical - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-06-16
  • Reviewer: Staff

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. (Sept.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Strangers in the house

It is 1922, and England and her citizens are still recovering from the upheaval of the First World War: High unemployment, disillusioned ex-soldiers and severely strained circumstances are commonplace. Twenty-seven-year-old Frances Wray and her mother are living in South London. Both of Frances’ brothers died in the war, and her father’s recent death left the two women close to financial ruin. Even with the dismissal of servants and Frances taking over the housework and meals, the Wrays no longer have enough to live on. Their decision to take in lodgers, or “paying guests” as they genteelly refer to them, leads to an event as ultimately life-altering as the war itself.

The Wrays’ lodgers are a young married couple, Leonard and Lillian Barber. The lack of privacy and the added noise prove troublesome, but Frances, who is cut off from people her own age, puts up with Leonard’s overly familiar conversation and is drawn to Lily’s artistic nature and seductive good looks. The budding friendship between the two women deepens, and when Frances confesses her sexual attraction to women, Lily is intrigued and reciprocates. Their affair reveals the cracks in the Barbers’ marriage as well as the depths of Frances’ loneliness. When a marital argument leads to a fatal accident, the novel swiftly transforms from a romance about forbidden love to a fast-paced courtroom drama, and Frances finds herself in the middle of an ethical dilemma that casts a deep shadow on her relationship with Lily.

Fans of Sarah Waters’ previous novels (Fingersmith, The Little Stranger) know that she is a gifted storyteller with a way of bringing historical eras to life. She is sensitive to the telling details of character and class. Some of the strongest sections of The Paying Guests depict Frances’ discomfort as she navigates uneasily between her mother’s expectations and those of the Barbers; as bold as she may be in her desires, she is easily discomfited by the middle-class lodgings and speech of Lily’s mother and sisters. In addition, the hidden nature of the women’s relationship proves a double-edged sword—though Frances wishes she could proclaim her love out loud, she also knows that its very invisibility keeps her safe. With the swiftly shifting mores of postwar British society as a backdrop, Waters once again provides a singular novel of psychological tension, emotional depth and historical detail.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews