Tag: sarah waters

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Posted February 27, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Historical Fiction / 8 Comments

The Paying Guests by Sarah WatersTitle: The Paying Guests (Goodreads)
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 576
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Paying Guests is something a little different for Sarah Waters; set in 1922 London, it is a period of history I don’t expect from this author. The novel tells the story an impoverished widow and her spinster daughter who are struggling to keep their large Camberwell villa after the loss of her husband and sons due to the war. They take in a modern young couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber to help make ends meet. True to Sarah Waters form, The Paying Guest is full of tension and mystery, but there was something missing.

Granted I have only read Tipping the Velvet (I really should read Fingersmith) but what I know and expect from Waters is something set in the 1800’s. Needless to say this was an enjoyable novel, exploring the differences in classes and the effects of World War I on the people in London. This period of time is an interesting one; the results of the war and the modernisation of London make for an interesting backdrop.

What I think Sarah Waters does best is create incredibly complex characters and The Paying Guests in no exception. Told from the point of view of Frances Wray, all the characters within the novel slowly take form, as secrets and new facts are revealed about them. This is an effective way to build a character and allows them to grow with small reveals that are both expected and unexpected.

The main focus of this novel is the blossoming romance between Frances and Lilian, this is expected from Waters and where she really excels. The idea of forbidden love is a heavy theme, not just because a lesbian relationship would be taboo but also the fact that Lilian was stuck in a marriage she wasn’t happy with. This allows the reader to explore the concepts of love and relationships in interesting ways; should we be encouraging the relationship between Frances and Lilian when one is married?

As I said earlier, I still think there was something missing in this novel. There is a gothic element that runs through The Paying Guests which starts off well, with all the secrets that slowly began to be revealed. However this stopped working for me when the plot became too predictable. I’m not opposed to a predictable plot; the focus on the character development was effective enough. The problem was the whole gothic aspect became clunky and the basic plot didn’t allow this theme to really go anywhere and just left me wanting more.

Comparing this novel with Tipping the Velvet is probably a little unfair; this is a completely different type of book. Having read one great Sarah Waters book, I expected a little more. I like the way Sarah Waters writes characters and captures a time period; I would have liked to see her do more with a gothic theme. Somehow The Paying Guests was on track to being another great novel by Waters but for me, it fell a little short. Maybe someone new to Sarah Waters would enjoy this one more, as it gives a little tamer introduction to what this author does best. Having said that, I’m still excited to read everything written by Waters; she is a great author.


Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Posted January 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersTitle: Tipping the Velvet (Goodreads)
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: Riverhead Trade, 1998
Pages: 472
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Borrowed from a Friend

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Nan King is an oyster girl in a small seaside town who dreams of a better life. Her life drastically changes when she falls in love with a Masher named Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called back to London for a new show, Nan decides to join her and work as her dresser. Their love is forbidden and they keep it a secret but it’s inevitably doomed. When the relationship ends, Nan has to face London on her own, this is when her adventure of sexual discovery truly begins.

I was told by my sister in law that I don’t review enough lesbian romances, but to be honest I think this is the only one I’ve read (and possibly not a romance). I read Tipping the Velvet a few years ago and still remember it fondly, it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. As a literary explorer this is always something I look for. The relationship between Nan and Kitty was doomed from the start and was an interesting way for the reader and Nan to discover her sexuality. Though this was not the best first love, it got her to discover who she was as a lesbian. There is a sense of self-discovery throughout this book, she doesn’t always make good choices, in fact most of them were bad but this is part of the journey.

I really liked Nan as a character and seeing Kitty through her eyes, I also liked Kitty. But the heart break was almost like a heart break for me too. I don’t often get so emotionally invested in a book so it was interesting that I was so invested with this one. While this book was very predictable it was still a great read and I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it.

This is Sarah Waters’ debut novel and I would highly recommend it; its historical fiction like you have never read it before. The first part of the book was so obvious but there may be some surprises in the second half to keep you reading. There are some explicit sex scenes in this book but if you are not put off by them, this is well worth your time.


Question Tuesday: Have You Ever Felt That The Story Ended Just When The Real Story Was About To Begin?

Posted July 3, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

There are times when I feel like the book is just getting started when the book ends but then again there are times I feel a sense of closure from a book even if there is more books in the series. I haven’t read the rest of The Hunger Games series because I felt like the book ended at a good place and all I could see is an annoying love triangle if I went any further. But that might be another post; so I will head back to the original question. There are so many books I would love to have seen continued where I felt the story was just getting started or even that there was more of the story to be told. In Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, Nancy is finally happy and I would like to know what happens next. Or Looking for Alaska by John Green where I feel we can continue Miles story and explore more of his life and the effects Alaska had on him thoughout the rest of his life; even though I think John Green did end the book in a good place. Also speaking of John Green, in Will Grayson Will Grayson, Tiny is finally appreciated at the end, I’m sure there is more of a story to tell there as well.

I know authors finish a story and that’s it, the characters cease to exist beyond that, but it is really hard not to wonder what might happen to these characters that we have formed a bond with. I’m not sure but I think this is why people write fanfic. The fall in love with these great characters and they want them to keep on living in one form or another.