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Monday, February 9, 2015

The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters - a review

It was a progressive time in England. World War I was over, the British Empire covered almost a quarter of the globe but back home, in the reality of 1922, and penniless veterans roamed the streets of London trying to find work. A queer mixture of wealth and abject poverty.
Mr. Wray had died leaving his wife and daughter, Frances, to find out that he was not as careful with the bills as he might have been. They had some debts to pay off and so decided to convert three rooms upstairs in to a bed-sitter and take in a boarder, or a paying guest, as their middle-class neighborhood warranted.
The young couple that rented the rooms, Leonard and Lillian Barber, were close in age to Frances. They were very pleasant, eager to please, and paid the rent on time. Their penchant for music, their art tastes, brought youthful warmth to the house that had been missing for a while. Appearances are never quite what they appear however, and Lillian and Frances forge a bond that will test the bounds of their friendship to its limits.
Waters does a great job of building suspense and intrigue and gives us a feel for how the detectives, in what was still a fledgling Scotland Yard, conducted an investigation. A gothic, coming of age love story set in the London suburbs. The details of life during that period are aptly described, creating a historically accurate novel that leaves you guessing through to the last paragraph. Be prepared to read well past your normal bedtime “The Paying Guests” is a hard book to set down.

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