The Paying Guests – finis

payingThe Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
2014 /  576 pages
read by Juliet Stevenson 21h 26m
Rating-  4.5*  / romance / crime  (lesbian)
(*1 for the first half and 8 for the second half)

Okay – so under some pressure (“it gets better!”  “Yes, a slow start.”)   I caved and picked the book up again – or rather – stuck the earplugs back in.  Only about 9 hours to go.  lol –

Waters is certainly  a master of suspense, carefully building and building and then,  after as long as she can possibly stretch it out,  “something happens.”

Then,  of f course, there are repercussions,  but  – ah – a chance for more suspense building.   And so the suspense builds and builds and builds until finally something “exciting” happens.   Other mystery novelists do the same thing and I get irritated when I’m 2/3rds of the way through the book before someone dies.   “The author is setting the stage,” say the enthusiasts – “Hog-wash,   get on with it,”  say the critics.

But there we have it – creating the stage with some really flimsy historical backdrop and the understanding that Frances is a very needy lesbian who gradually and graphically seduces Lillian, a very unhappily married women.  This  took 300 plus pages to create what with the details of  the illicit romance.  Then finally, “something happens” (fairly original, too,  imo)  and when the novel finally gets to  some excitement somewhere in Chapter 10 (?).  This is 200 – 300 pages – 11 hours into a 21+  hour book  – a long, long way.

Furthermore,  I don’t even enjoy straight romance – had this been a “straight” romance I would have thrown the book across the room a long time prior – maybe at 75 pages.  Almost the entire “set-up” is this romance (a novel unto itself).   Rating – 1 (there being no 0.)

The second half seemed promising what with the “exciting thing” of Chapter 11 (?).  But in the follow up  the slow motion suspense continues in with build-up, build-up, build-up until “Voila! A twist in the plot!”  And then recap, recap, recap until it cycles around for more build-up, build-up, build-up until “something happens” again.   (sigh)
What it boils down to, when  you get to it,  the actual happenings are anti-climactic – the build-up has taken precedence.

This could easily have been a 1st person narrative, but it’s all in 3rd person with a seriously intimate narrator exploring one point of view in depth.  I suppose the author avoids the “unreliable narrator” that way – good move.

I see the comparison to 50 Shades of Grey in the sex of the first half and the guilt factor of the second half has it possibly compared  to Crime and Punishment.   I’d like to also suggest  The Golden Bowl by Henry James for  “the reality is in the details”  style.

This review has it about right:
Open Letters Monthly:

2 Responses to The Paying Guests – finis

  1. Jeff O'Brien says:

    I have been thoroughly warned off this book and appreciate all the warnings. I would not read it under any citciumstances.


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