The Paying Guests
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About the Book
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.
For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class', the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all a wonderful, compelling story.
Awarded The Sunday Times Fiction Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
‘You will be hooked within a page . . . At her greatest, Waters transcends genre: the delusions in Affinity (1999), the vulnerability in Fingersmith (2002), the undercurrents of social injustice and the unexplained that underlie all her work, take her, in my view, well beyond the capabilities of her more seriously regarded Booker-winning peers. But The Paying Guests is the apotheosis of her 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, Financial Times
‘Absolutely brilliant’ Jacqueline Wilson, The Sunday Times
‘A lot of work must have gone into writing this novel but it is no labour at all to devour’ Lionel Shriver, New Statesman
‘Brilliantly involving . . . juicy, beautifully observed’ Metro
‘A stay-up-all-night page-turner’ Glamour
‘Masterly . . . Waters is a cracking storyteller’ Tatler
‘ The Paying Guests is so evocative and compelling that all the time I was reading, I had a feeling it was me who had done something terrible, instead of her characters’ – Rachel Joyce, The Observer
‘A masterpiece of social unease . . . It isn't so much the plot that makes you read on – the novel's armature is a comparatively uncomplicated suspense narrative but barnacled to it is an astonishing accretion of detail . . . A virtuoso feet of storytelling’ – Jane Shilling, Evening Standard
‘This novel magnificently confirms [Sarah Waters's] status as an unsurpassed fictional recorder of vanished eras and hidden lives’ – Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times
‘I raced through it, breathing fast and when I had finished had to reread parts of the wonderful early chapters. I don't like historical novels but this is the exception. I shall let a few months go by and then read it all over again with, I'm sure, undiminished pleasure’ – Ruth Rendell, The Guardian
‘Waters's page-turning prose conceals great subtlety. Acutely sensitive to social nuance, she keeps us constantly alert . . . this is a winner’ – Intelligent Life, The Economist
‘Sarah Waters is, quite simply, one of our greatest writers’ – Joanna Briscoe, The Sunday Express
‘Another wild ride of a novel . . . [I was] helplessly pulled along by the magnetic storytelling’ – Tracy Chevalier, The Observer