My only reason for going to the bookstore this past week was to buy Sarah Waters' new book, The Little Stranger, which I've been really looking forward to. As it turns out I went to two bookstores and neither of them had copies. Hadn't everyone else been looking forward to April 30th for this particular reason? Apparently not. As it turns out the public library already had their copies and was actively cataloging them. I'm glad I had got in line for it as I got one of the first ones on Friday. In the end I may buy the book, but I will likely wait for the paperback and just read a library copy now. More about The Little Stranger in a moment.
I only bought one book at the bookstore. I found a bargain copy of Agatha Christie's Sad Cypress, which caught my eye. At some point this year I think I may have a little Christie reading fest and read not only a few of her mysteries (have read far too few thus far in my life) but a biography of her as well. I saw a film about her life not long ago and ever since have wanted to know more about her.
The other three books were bought online with an Amazon credit. And by the way, they arrived without blemish this time. My splurges: Georgette Heyer's Why Shoot a Butler, which I've been told is an entertaining read. I've been reading a fair amount of her Regencies, so I really do need (and want) to give her mysteries a try as well. Vita Sackville-West's The Heir is another book that has recently come highly recommended, and it's a lovely Hesperus Press edition. I'm not familiar with the story, but the blurb tells me it is "a moving and beautifully told novella that draws on Sackville-West's own experiences of inheritance and loss." And since Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage is out in paper I decided to get it as well.
Now for Sarah Waters' new book. I'm not going to say much about it, as I'm only about two chapters in so far. You may already know it's a ghost story. So far I'm not really sure where things are going, but I am leaving myself in Sarah Waters very capable storytelling hands. It's set right after WWII and again a wealthy family whose money has long since drained away is taking center stage. The narrator is a doctor who was raised in the same village, the son of a once-nursery maid in the same great house, which is literally falling down around the family's shoulders. I'm not sure why I'm drawn to stories like this, but I find the whole upstairs/downstairs way of life and its subsequent decline wholly fascinating and never seem to tire of the subject. For a little taste of the story, I thought this was an interesting passage to share:
"The story ran on, Caroline and Roderick prompting more of it; they spoke to each other rather than to me, and, shut out of the game, I looked from mother to daughter to son and finally caught the likenesses between them, not just the similarities of feature--the long limbs, the high-set eyes--but the almost clannish little tricks of gesture and speech. And I felt a flicker of impatience with them--the faintest stirring of dark dislike--and my pleasure in the lovely room was slightly spoiled. Perhaps it was the peasant blood in me, rising, But Hundreds Hall had been made and maintained, I thought, by the very people they were laughing at now. After two hundred years, those people had begun to withdraw their labour, their belief in the house; and the house was collapsing, like a pyramid of cards. Meanwhile, here the family sat, still playing gaily at gentry life, with chipped stucco on their walls, and their Turkey carpets worn to the weave, and their riveted china..."
I hope that wasn't taken too out of context. Waters always gets the details and atmosphere just right, or at least it seems that way. Needless to say she has me hooked so hopefully by this time next week I'll know just who or what the "little stranger" is!