The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – A Review
This story of an elderly woman and her of-age daughter who find it necessary to run a sort of rooming house in order to pay their bills in the early 1900’s in London, shares the ins and outs of their daily lives and then suddenly tosses you and the main characters into the middle of a thriller where a crime results in major upheaval for everyone involved.
Described as different than American “full of holes” crime drama, this book shares a wealth of knowledge on the time period and really delves deep into the personas of the characters, allowing readers to become fully invested in what happens to the people and how the story will end. The novel may not suit everyone since it is set in such a different time period. However, for others that is exactly what appeals to them – the ability to follow the lives of these people, set so long ago, and really experience (through reading) the way things were in London at that time.
Waters tends to write works that focus on other time periods, some post-World War II and others in key historic times from our past. Her ability to research the time and work that research into a seemingly vivid and in-depth story of the times is what has gained her a significant fan base. This novel is focused in post-World War I, which is a slight detour from her regular writing. However, it still provides the same quality and endearing characters to grab the reader’s attention and hold it until the end. It does help the story starts out deceptively slow, then becomes a page-turner in the middle to get you to the last pages of the book to see how it all works out.
Readers are a bit at odds over the romance of the book, some finding it far too sexual and off-point from the time period in which it is set. Also, readers found it to be repetitive and the narration to drag in some parts, making it hard to keep turning pages until it got interesting again. Therefore, the mixed reviews leave it as a story that will depend entirely on your own perspective whether it is worth the time to read or not. Many readers were doing so as a selection for a book club. They admitted they would not have completed the task otherwise. Therefore, for general reading pleasure, this book leaves something to be desired for most readers.
One big fault with this book is its lack of efficient closure. The loose ends of the book were not adequately addressed in the ending. This frustrated some readers who otherwise might have found the book an entertaining read. Therefore, for those who prefer everything to tie together smoothly at the end, this book is not for you. For those who can be satisfied even if they are left with questions, this may be a book worth picking up.