Finally, I get to read Sarah Waters, I thought to myself when her latest, The Paying Guests, made the Morning News Tournament of Books shortlist this year, plus I had it in my library request list early enough that I could get it before the Tourney began. When I went away to a writing retreat last weekend, it was the only physical book I took with me.

Alas, I never connected with it. The novel is set in post WWI London, and about a daughter and mother whose genteel poverty forces them to take in merchant-class “paying guests” (not, gasp, lodgers) to their stately house in order to pay the bills. There is crossed loved, and forbidden romance, secrets and lies. Crime, and punishment. Yet somehow, the book never connected with me, never made me NEED to read it. I could easily have put it down, and didn’t because it was the only book I’d brought and I wanted to form my own opinion before it came up in the tourney, which is tomorrow.

The meticulous research, and even the carefully drawn characters and setting are all skilfully done. Yet I always felt a bit bored, and never cared as much as I wanted to about the characters, even when I thought I should. I do still hope to read her other books, which I’m assured by other readers are more fabulous than this one was.

6 Responses to “THE PAYING GUESTS by Sarah Waters”

  1. Janet Says:

    Don’t give up on Sarah Waters. I liked The Paying Guests myself, but if you don’t connect, you don’t connect. “Fingersmith” is very good as is “Tipping the Velvet”.

    I hate it when I don’t like the book I brought with me somewhere but have no alternative for reading. Not a good feeling.

  2. girldetective Says:

    I still plan to read others by Waters, they’ve been so highly recommended. We own Fingersmith, and my husband has been urging me to read it for years.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    I had exactly the same response to Paying Guests as you did. Exactly.

  4. girldetective Says:

    Jenn, I love that you did because I loved your book reviews so much that I tracked you down online and made virtual friends with you because I thought your taste in books was so similar to mine. Glad to hear that we’re still in sync all these years later! :)
    I felt similarly about Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See–I found it dull and humorless, so I put it down halfway through, which I thought was more than a fair sampling to determine it just wasn’t for me, even if almost everyone else out there likes or loves it.

  5. Jennifer Says:

    I also quit on All the Light We Cannot See. We really do have similar tastes! I read about 40 pages and quit. Was sure it had to be my mood because I’d heard such rapturous reviews. The real test will now be Dept. of Speculation.

  6. carolyn Says:

    Yeah I thought this book had a stilted stiffness to it that it never overcome. I really didn’t believe the characters were having deep feelings, or feelings deep enough for their actions.