The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters

Herelded as one of the top books of 2014, I had high hopes for this book. Were they met? Just to be mess with your heads I'll say yes and no!


I’ve sat on this for a few days and still can’t completely work out how I felt about it. I mean, I know I liked it, but did I love anything about it? Well, I think I did and I didn’t. What I did love was how the story was told, the way in which the near perfect reflection of human nature was woven throughout the narrative. When it comes to plot though, I think the chief thing was that it suffered a bit because of such a focus on the characters. You can't have everything though and I firmly believe the sacrifice of plot was worth it here.


Set just after the First World War, the story is told from the perspective of a young woman called Frances who lives with her mother. Since the death of Frances’s father, her and her mother have lived alone, but are forced to take in two lodgers because of escalating debt. The tenants that move into their home on Champion Hill are a married couple who slowly begin to change the dynamics of the house. I don't want to say anymore as I hate to spoil things for anyone.


A slow burner, not much happens in the first 300 pages, but the author is so skilled that at no time did I feel overly frustrated by this, but I can easily see why people give up on it. It’s worth persevering though as the characters are so rich, so layered and so genuine that it doesn’t matter hugely how much else happens, we’re in it for them. They’re reactions and decisions were always so genuine, that they reflected humanity perfectly.


I’ve been struggling to settle on a new book since I finished this, and at first I didn’t know why, but now I realise it’s because the characters were so vivid here that’s it going to be hard to find anything that matches up!


Pretty clear at this point, but this book isn’t about tension or shocks, although there is a slight bit of this peppered throughout. Really this is about heart and soul and what makes us human and I’d highly recommend it for those of you that like character driven novels.