Released on August 28, 2014
Book Name: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Suitable for Age group: 18 and above.
My Rating: Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, Crime Fiction.
Page Count: 576
About the Author: Who is Sarah Waters?
One of the most prominent authors of contemporary literature, Sarah Waters is a British novelist well-known for writing historical and lesbian fiction. She was born in Wales on July 21, 1966, and currently lives in London. She has written six popular novels—Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith, Affinity, The Little Stranger, The Night Watch and The Paying Guests. Her books have been shortlisted for various awards such as the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Moreover, she has also won various awards such as the Betty Trask Award, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and others.
Sarah Waters got her English Literature degree at the universities of Kent and Lancaster. Then, she worked in various libraries and bookshops. After that, she returned to her postgraduate study and began a Ph.D. in English Literature, choosing lesbian and gay historical fiction as her field of study. Waters has published a number of articles on history, feminism, gender, and sexuality in various journals. Moreover, while working on her Ph.D. thesis, she became increasingly interested in 19th century London life, and started writing fiction.
Waters’ s novels focus on the issues of feminism, class, and sexuality. In addition, they also reveal the evolution of her attitude towards history as a source material. Undoubtedly, Waters’ writings have helped to transform the well-equipped evocations of the British past into a respectable element of contemporary fiction.
Sarah Waters’ All Books in Order
Sarah Waters has written six famous standalone novels. Here is the list of her published works in order:
1998: Tipping the Velvet
2006: The Night Watch
2009: The Little Stranger
2014: The Paying Guests
Besides these famous novels, Sarah Waters has also published two anthologies. These are:
2010: Dancing with Mr. Darcy: Stories Inspired by Jane Austen & Chawton House
2020: The Women Writers’ Handbook
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters: Summary
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is about Frances, an unmarried woman in her mid twenties. It’s 1992 and London is devastated by the war. Frances lives with her mother in a large, decaying house ruined by the emotional and economic impact of WWI and bereft of male members. Riddled with considerable debt and grief stricken from the deaths of two brothers in the war, Frances and her mother decide to take in tenants, a young married couple: the Barbers. And here is where everything spirals out of control. The intriguing young couple changes the mundane lives of their landlords, particularly of Frances.
Although Frances has tasted freedom and believed in feminism, she is still under the shackles of the old traditions. Gradually the intimacy between the Barbers and Frances increases. The Barbers way of life and reasoning amuse Frances. But, at the same time, her mother constantly chastises her mother to not become too friendly with them. Quite unexpectedly, Frances, grappling with loneliness and frustration over where her life has taken her, gets wrapped up in a forbidden romance. What transpires is a tense and startling narrative full of danger and desire.
Ending: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
The ending of The Paying Guests is amazingly unpredictable. I never thought it would work out that way. A bit abrupt but full of hope, I really enjoyed the ending of the book as well as the message it conveyed. Also, I felt that the book dragged a little towards the end.
Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests: Review
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is a bewitching, compelling and superb novel. It has everything: affairs, crime, forbidden love and betrayals. The book brings before us complicated female characters and the vanished barrier between people of different status. The First World War is over and a new world is starting to take its shape. Following the brutal upheaval of the war, Frances and her mother take in lodgers to make both ends meet. The couple catapults Frances’ dull life to one of illicit passion, murder, and a love story hidden amidst a male-dominated society. Waters’ book draws you into a deliciously provocative drama that leaves you wondering just how far you would be willing to go for the woman you love.
I must admit that Sarah Waters is a master of creating atmosphere and it’s one of the things I love most about her writing. Initially, the book is a slow read, but then a twist comes in the middle when it turns from a slow burning love story from a crime thriller. And I found both the parts entirely compelling.
In addition, the most remarkable thing about Waters’ book is the momentum it carries. The further on you read, the quicker the pace. It took me about a week to read the first 150 pages before I devoured the last 426 pages in a matter of days. I was gripped in the first half of the book, but later on I found myself desperately wanting it to be finished in the second. The story is fun and flirty, filled with rich descriptions of life in London during the post-war 1920s.
Language, Characters, & Setting of ‘The Paying Guests’
The language of The Paying Guests is soft and intimate. Besides, the author has well realized the characters and the setting on the page, it’s full of historical details that reel you in. Waters has written so intricately and her description is so spot on that I really felt I was in the era the book is set in (Victorian).
‘The Paying Guests’: A Depiction of Post-War Disillusionment
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters also does an impressive job at depicting post-war disillusionment. Soldiers that have survived the war are condemned to poverty and are traumatized. Whereas, women have become domestic slaves left to fend for themselves after their loved ones do not return. Francis is the most excruciating example of this. Once a feminist and activist she now spends her time feeding the hungry house with a never ending demand of chores. She leaves her lover to stay behind and help her mother, silencing her passions until someone comes and awakes them.
A literary genius, Sarah Waters has built and developed her story to obtain perfection. The book slowly graduates from a tragic love story to a raw take on society filled with violence and deception. Waters fits Frances’ loneliness into the bigger picture of the brutal South London society perfectly. Moreover, post WWI London also plays an essential role in shaping the essence of the book, giving an intense atmosphere which profoundly influences the reader.
‘The Paying Guests’: A Book About Social Change & Norms
Amidst the drama and mystique, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters also continues to be a book about social change and a century’s old social norms—gender roles, sexuality, and conservatism. Waters pulls off a genius balancing act, uncovering the contradictions and complexities of relationships. However, she pulls back in order to throw in that customary twist which gives the book its edge, leaving the reader with a conclusion wrapped in beautiful ambiguity.
The Paying Guests also looks like a critique of post feminism. Waters, by writing women into history, contests the silencing of women and queer identities. She portrays freedom and equality as nothing more than a mere fantasy, as violent and destructive forces are omnipresent in women’s lives. Her book presents a picture of society where women are left to gather up the pieces that were scattered after death and destruction.
On the whole, the book brilliantly weaves social commentary into the storytelling about the effect of war on the youth of London, re-establishment of soldiers into the post war society, class system, effect of war on families, the role of women and marriage ideals in the modern age. As a historical fiction, the book lives up to the best in this genre. The historical fiction in the first part of the book gives way to a romance and then into a murder mystery and a legal thriller. The ending is a little abrupt but full of hope.
Why should I read ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters?
An engrossing love story, a dynamic crime thriller, and a fascinating atmospheric portrayal of an alluring time and place, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is one of her finest achievements yet. If you’re looking for something a little lighter than the usual literary hit, I highly recommend this book. Moreover, its a must read for those who are interested in homoerotic representation in the 1920s. It’s also a great book for you if you’re into period dramas and love stories.
Above all, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters is a fascinating story of class, sexuality, and the consequences of a passionate romance. Even with its hefty page count, the book is a brisk read.
Grab your book: Amazon | Bookshop
Some FAQs About ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters
Here are some questions the readers frequently ask about The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters:
1. What year is The Paying Guests set in?
The Paying Guests is set in 1922 London after the First World War.
2. Where is The Paying Guests set?
The setting of The Paying Guests is South London.
3. Is the Paying Guests a movie?
The Paying Guests is a standalone novel and there are also some plans for its TV adaptation rather than movie or film. At the moment, the script is being worked on, and it will turn out to be excitingly amazing.
4. Who is Sarah Waters?
Sarah Waters is a British writer. She has earned great popularity as one of the greatest contemporary writers of historical fiction. Also, due to her brilliant writing, she has been short-listed three times for the Man Booker Prize. Waters is, indeed, a genius. She writes about past ages with inquisitiveness and sensitivity. As a result, she succeeds in what others don’t: to look under the dress and into the outhouse, and at the same time into the hearts and minds without trivial modernization.
5. What kind of novels does Sarah Waters write?
Most of Sarah Waters’ novels are historical, some of them dealing with lesbian representation. Her portrayals of Victorian England (Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith, Affinity) and post-war England (The Night Watch, The Little Stranger, The Paying Guests) are extremely compelling, powerful, lush, detailed, and intelligent.
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