08 April 2015

The Paying Guests by Susan Waters

Set in the years soon after World War I, this novel evokes a time when many aspects of life were still what we would consider primitive. For example, the home that is central to the plot does not have an indoor lavatory or commode; its residents visit an outhouse in the garden. The mother and daughter around whom the plot develops, Mrs. Wray and Frances, have lost much in the war, including Frances' two brothers. Her father died soon afterward, though not as a result of military action.

The Wrays, short on funds, do a bit of remodeling and advertise for boarders, "paying guests." The couple that move in provide an instant accelerant to the plot, which becomes very fascinating and tense when one of the paying guests is found murdered near the house.

This was thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, and gave what I believe to be a good picture of what life in England might have been like at this period of time. Furthermore, the issue of homosexuality at this time is dealt with, and we are shown a plausible image of how it might have been to be gay or lesbian then.

Sarah Waters' website

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