Mini-reviews: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Genre: Historical fiction, gothic fiction
Publisher: Riverhead
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Simon Vance
First line: I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old.

Amazon blurb: One post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners – mother, son, and daughter – are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

Okay, here’s one of those books with the ambiguous endings I was telling you about yesterday. This one didn’t bother me quite as much as the other titles on my list – probably because the up-in-the-air ending was read to me in the silken voice of Simon Vance. I loved everything about this book up until the end, but I know a lot of people who liked that the ending was left a bit open-ended, so don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. It does start off a bit slow, but once I was at the halfway mark, I was completely enmeshed in the intrigues at Hundreds. The mystery was spooky and insidious and subtle, which I guess means the ending fits.

Title: Before I Go to Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Genre: Psychological thriller, mystery
Publisher: Harper
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: The bedroom is strange.

Goodreads blurb: ‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’ Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

This is the book that inspired my post yesterday. This one was the proverbial straw – I wanted to chuck the book through a window. I can (sort of) understand that some books work well with an ambiguous ending, but not mysteries. One of the reasons I read mysteries is because I like the way they all wrap up in the end. This was a terrific read – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough – until the last few pages. And then I was just pissed. I read on the author’s web site that they’re making a film version of it – I sure hope the screenwriter gives the stupid thing an ending.

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16 Responses to Mini-reviews: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

  1. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads

    I want to read both of these! I think the only Sarah Waters book that I read as a bit ambiguous at the end too!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Marg – I read Tipping the Velvet, but it wasn’t really an ambiguous ending, just a bit out of my comfort zone. LOL

  2. Kailana says:

    I have started The Little Stranger, but that is as far as it gets… One day I will get back to it.

  3. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I was not thrilled with Before I Go To Sleep for a number of reasons, but I loved The Little Stranger. That was my first experience with Mr. Vance too, and it was WONDERFUL. He is wonderful. I always say that I would have Sarah Waters’ babies. She is one of my favorite authors evah.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – she is a wonderful author – I like the way she writes, although I thought this one got off to a bit of a slow start.

  4. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I’m generally not a fan of the ambiguous endings so these may not be for me

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – I know a ton of people who love The Little Stranger, and didn’t mind the ending, but the other one…. It was just plain frustrating!

  5. Kathleen says:

    I’ll be discussing Before I go to Sleep with my bookclub on Friday night. I’ll be interested to see what everyone thinks about the ending!

  6. I still haven’t read anything by Sarah Waters, though I have a couple of her books on my shelves…

    I will give Before I Go to Sleep a wide berth — I totally agree with you that mysteries should NEVER have ambiguous endings!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Avis – I like Waters’ writing – just not the ending. šŸ™‚

  7. Sheila (Book Journey)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    Thank you I felt the same about Before I Go To Sleep – I was anxious to see what you thought.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sheila – I have a feeling a lot of people were not happy with that ending!

  8. Susan says:

    I read Sarah Waters’s last novel “The Night Watch” (2006) and thought it was okay. I guess “The Little Stranger” book drew quite a bit more press, so perhaps I’ll get to it. Thanks for your warning about the ending!