The Paying Guests

The Paying Guests

Hardcover | September 2, 2014

bySarah Waters

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A truly extraordinary, masterful novel of brilliant storytelling, sensuality, and psychological suspense set in post-WWI London, from the internationally bestselling author of The Little Stranger. Three-time Booker Prize finalist Sarah Waters is at the height of her powers.
     A psychological and dramatic tour de force from beloved international bestseller Sarah Waters. The year is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. In South London, in a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances are obliged to take in lodgers.
     With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, the routines of the house and the lives of its inhabitants will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far, and how devastatingly, the disturbances will reach.
     Waters proves once again that her eye for the telling details of class and character that draw people together as well as tear them apart is second to none in this masterpiece of psychological tension and emotional depth.

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The Paying Guests

Hardcover | September 2, 2014
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From the Publisher

A truly extraordinary, masterful novel of brilliant storytelling, sensuality, and psychological suspense set in post-WWI London, from the internationally bestselling author of The Little Stranger. Three-time Booker Prize finalist Sarah Waters is at the height of her powers.      A psychological and dramatic tour de force from beloved i...

SARAH WATERS was born in Wales in 1966 and lives in London. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature and has lectured for the Open University. Waters is the author of five previous novels. Tipping The Velvet won the Betty Trask Award and Affinity won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Fingersmi...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:576 pages, 9.3 × 6.33 × 1.74 inPublished:September 2, 2014Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0771089414

ISBN - 13:9780771089411

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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing I found the story interesting at first, but then it became boring - I was not able to finish it and tossed it in the garbage.
Date published: 2016-09-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not for Me I didn't enjoy this book as much I had hoped. It was too long, the ending disappointing. I was happy to finally finish it.
Date published: 2016-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a gift A good friend gave me this as a gift and as soon as I finished it I gave it to her to share it. So deliciously intriguing and kept me interested from the first page!
Date published: 2016-06-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Paying Guests Interesting but there was almost too much of a description places and of other people involved besides the main characters It was ok
Date published: 2015-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable Book I enjoyed this book even though the storyline was not what I expected, good overall.
Date published: 2015-05-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from good story but... Paying Guests is a well-written novel but not quite satisfying. I was intrigued throughout the first part of the novel and continued to enjoy much of part two, however, part three lost my interest rather early. I think that Sarah Waters did a great job in creating and describing the relationships between Frances and her mother and between Frances and Lillian. She is courageous in her writing of the sexual intimacy between Frances and Lillian. I wonder if the author missed an opportunity in the way that she chose to remove Leonard from the story. It was obvious early on that he needed to go, and would go, but I do not think having him accidentally killed by Lillian made the most of the situation. I think that his infidelity might have been brought forward and then placed against the relationship between Lillian and Frances. This might have offered an opportunity to confront the oppressive and unfair attitudes of male-dominated society. Not sure how she might have done this, but does seem to me a potentially stronger and more convincing part three of the novel. And I feel that Frances seems just as confused/uncertain at the end of the novel as she is at the beginning. Always like reading Sarah Waters' work but I do not think this novel as good as The Night Watch or The Little Stranger.
Date published: 2015-04-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing Terrible read- I feel very strongly about this being a total waste of money and time. As a constant reader, I have created an account here just to warn others of this novel. It was extremely slow, half the characters seemed simple in the head and also was written with a deep sense of depression and loss. I finished the book feeling tired.
Date published: 2015-02-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very dull I was really looking forward to reading this book as I was intrigued by time and place (England after WWI) in which the story is set. However, I found this book incredibly tedious. The first half plods along and I kept waiting for something, anything to happen. Finally something happens and the characters spend the second half dithering and moaning about the event. I did not find the two main characters engaging or likeable and few of the secondary characters were interesting. The ending was a vague non-ending leaving the outcome to the readers imagination. After slogging through what seemed like thousands of pages to find out what happened to Frances and Lillian the ending was the biggest disappointment.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Paying Guests This story of Frances and Lillian, the guest, kept me in suspense all the way through. It takes place in the 20s and offers a glimpse into the law and order of the day, and how life with all its complications, hasn't changed much.
Date published: 2015-02-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing I agree with Sarah. This book went nowhere and the ending was a huge disappointment. Unfortunately we chose this as a book club read. So sorry we wasted our time on it.
Date published: 2015-02-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Misleading Title? I expected this novel to be more about a rotation of interesting or eccentric guests, each with a story to tell. (Instead, it was one set of guests and one rather predictable story that slowly revealed itself.) What I did enjoy about this novel was the clear and vivid writing style... Sarah Waters is a talented author whose work I will be sure to follow.
Date published: 2015-01-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dreadful I started to read this book with high hopes as I usually enjoy Heathers picks, but what a disappointment! The novel starts out slow and never seems to pick up. Each chapter feels like a repeat of the last, the main character Frances constantly thinking or complaining about the same thing, while the other characters are simply unlikeable and uninteresting. The premise offered potential for what could have been a great book, but this was a really awful read.
Date published: 2015-01-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good read I did not know what to expect by this book when I started it other than what was apparent from the title... but was pleasantly surprised at the twist this story took. I recommend it.
Date published: 2015-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good suspense Beginning of the book is a bit slow but the plot develop nicely after a few chapters Overall good read
Date published: 2015-01-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I expected. It was very plain, but with a twist that I did not expect, then quickly turned back to plain. There were some spelling errors. It was a easy read. The characters were also plain and I could not really picture them.
Date published: 2015-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Riveting The book had my interest right from the opening, and actually just reading the dust jacket I was very intrigued. The slow going for the first 100 pages or so had me thinking otherwise, until I remembered that this was Sarah Waters, and she was cleverly laying the groundwork of the novel, and I had to be patient and was I ever rewarded. I can't refer to this part or that part without giving away the story, but it is riveting and it's very hard to tear yourself away from this book. The setting is perfect for the events and disturbing story that unfolds. The writing is beautiful and stunning and so superb at capturing the mood and feeling in this book. The characters are so real and well developed and by the end you know them inside and out, but you can never predict what they will do or the outcome of the story. A very satisfying and good read. Her best yet!!!
Date published: 2014-12-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Paying Guests Very different but enjoyable!
Date published: 2014-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tense and suspenseful Sarah Waters writes beautifully and crafts fully believable characters. This was the first novel of hers I've read, but it won't be the last. I'm glad the story was set in the 20s -- the morals of the time inform a lot of the characters' decisions and much of the suspense of the story. It might look like a long read at first, but you'll whip right through it.
Date published: 2014-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sarah Waters delivers pure brilliance, yet again. Resembling the complexity of a PD James mystery novel but with brilliant prose and the ability to apply sharp, insightful ideas into the mind of the story's protagonist, and you have yet another Waters page-turner that will keep you up at night until you reach the end. The desire to read the final two pages is intense while following along with Ms. Waters' fully rounded, rich characters. Set in a remarkably accurately detailed post-WW1 England, Sarah Waters has, yet again, somehow, magically, got down on paper the feel of post-War-life as a larger, sweeping landscape, while intertwining a deep, rich group of people entangled, not simply in sordid and/or inspiring romance, but the very depths trust must or may plunge in the face of true love. Love is a central theme throughout this novel, examining love for family members gone off and lost early in life to war, the love of mothers and daughters, and the love of couples, no matter how they couple, and the strength and/or truth of any of those bonds. Waters' characters are real, rounded people. And while we live with the main protagonist in her mind and how she views the world and people around her and comes to conclusions about who they are and what and how they think, the reader is also treated to the reality that functions outside of the unreliable narrator's mind to show us that the rest of the world, and other people, frequent have different ideas than the ones we conjure ourselves. While "The Night Watch" bounces the reader backwards through a set of post-WW2 tales, "The Paying Guests" walks straight ahead through the consequences of WW1 on the population at large. All the while weaving the reader through an intense love affair mixed together with the best of British murder mysteries. Yet better. The characters are alive and vibrant and real. We don't ever question why they're doing or feeling or thinking what they are. The characters did not once make me give the book in my hands and sideways glance and question, "Really? Do you *really* think they'd say or do that?!". It's difficult to describe the sheer power of the book without giving the plot twists away. And, what is Sarah Waters if not whiplash-inducing plot twists? Yet, reviewing the previous chapters and evidence, one isn't ever left with a sense that she's deployed a deus ex machina. All of the pieces fit, quite properly, into place, but are initially told in such an off-handed,matter-of-fact manner so as not to draw undue attention to them. Hindsight tells us to pay attention. One is immediately consumed with the desire to re-read the entire book holding the plot ideas in mind. DO NOT spoil the book for yourself by reading the last few pages. Having said that, I'll say this: the last few pages don't make a whole bunch of sense within the context of the whole novel unless you've read each and every intervening word. Much joy with this new novel. If you're a Sarah Waters fan or a murder mystery fan of any sort, get this book. Immediately. Go now. Seriously.
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sarah Waters fans will be overjoyed Fans of Sarah Waters will probably agree that she produces 2 'types' of novels. The Little Stranger and Affinity were in one camp, while Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith and Night Watch were solidly in another. In my (totally biased, pro-camp-2) opinion, The Paying Guests is their new peer. It revisits the forbidden romance of Tipping the Velvet, the intrigue and suspense of Fingersmith and the (post-war) London of Night Watch. If you loved those, you'd better turn your ringer off and call in sick before you open this one. You won't want to stop until you've finished. Loved it.
Date published: 2014-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Paying Guests Different but a very good read! Enjoyed it.
Date published: 2014-10-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Paying Guests Good read. Captures the era well.
Date published: 2014-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absorbing, immersing, gripping I loved this book. Utterly masterful writing. Complex characters and deeply conflicting story lines. Immensely human. And, who needs television or cinema when a writer can create such vivid, fluid, presence.
Date published: 2014-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not what I was expecting but a great book overall Fast paced read that I really enjoyed, it wasn't what I was expecting but it was worthwhile.
Date published: 2014-10-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from dissappointed not as good as the fingersmith
Date published: 2014-09-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Too much! This book really needs a true ending. I feel like I was cheated for not knowing what will happen of the two of them.
Date published: 2014-09-28

Extra Content

Editorial Reviews

“One of the year’s most suspenseful novels . . .  a love affair, a shocking murder, and a flawless ending.” —Entertainment Weekly (A) “Brings to mind the dark and ominous atmosphere of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. . . . Waters’s skilful mastery of detail and atmosphere brings the suspenseful tale to life.” —Winnipeg Free Press “Perhaps Waters’s most impressive accomplishment is the authentic feel she achieves, . . . the story appears not merely to be about the novel’s time but to have been written by someone living in that time.” New York Times Book Review“Sarah Waters is, quite simply, a marvellous writer. . . . [The Paying Guests] is beautifully imagined. . . . It speaks to history, to identity, and to the basic human desire to be seen not for what you appear to be, but for who you truly are. It is also a story of triumphant love . . .” —Alison Pick, in the Globe and Mail “Marvellous – warm and hot and tender and terrible. . . . Because the plot is so absorbing, and the turns so delicious, it only seeps in slowly how much attention each of [the characters] is paying to their desire and how these wants, as is their wont, reveal everything.” —National Post “Waters is so confident – and, line by line, her writing so beautiful, precise and polished – that she sweeps all before her. . . . [I was] helplessly pulled along by the magnetic storytelling. Twice in the last few pages I shouted aloud – though whether in joy or horror I will not tell you. Sarah Waters skilfully keeps you guessing to the end.” —Tracy Chevalier, in The Guardian“A triumph: spellbinding, profound and almost problematically addictive. . . . Morally complex, atmospheric, romantic and psychologically deep, The Paying Guests is an astonishing achievement. . . . A beautiful and brilliant work by a consummate storyteller. Sarah Waters is, quite simply, one of our greatest writers.” —Daily Express (UK)“Whether it’s Mrs Dalloway’s lost love or Thérèse Raquin’s burgeoning horror, The Paying Guests reminds us of every great novel we’ve gasped or winced at, or loudly urged the protagonists through, and it does not relent. . . . The Paying Guests is the apotheosis of [Waters’] talent; at least for now. I have tried and failed to find a single negative thing to say about it. Her next will probably be even better. Until then, read it, Flaubert, Zola, and weep.” —Charlotte Mendelson in Financial Times“Waters’s page-turning prose conceals great subtlety. Acutely sensitive to social nuance, she keeps us constantly alert to the pain and passion churning under the “false, bright” surface of gentility. From a novelist who has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, this is a winner.” —Intelligent Life magazine (The Economist) “A masterpiece of social unease. . . . The temptation to finish the 500-odd pages of Waters’s novel at a sitting is powerful. . . . A virtuoso feat of storytelling.” —Evening Standard (UK)“Always superb at suspense, Waters draws you into a narrative that, while remaining agonisingly credible, is a master-feat of twists and shifts. . . .  As in all her novels, ghosts of past fiction thicken the atmosphere, too. Fleeting references to Dickens recur [and] a nod towards Little Dorrit also seems perceptible in the book’s quiet ending amid the bustle and clamour of London. Unillusioned but tentatively hopeful, it is a beautifully gauged conclusion to a novel of ambitious reach and triumphant accomplishment.” —Sunday Times (UK)“Waters’s 20-20 vision perceives the interior world of her characters with rare acuity in a prose style so smooth it pours down the page in a book to be prized.” —Scotland on Sunday (UK)