Shelf Control #208: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Paying Guests
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: 2014
Length: 599 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy when it first came out.

Why I want to read it:

Fingersmith is one of my all-time favorite books, and while I haven’t loved other Sarah Waters books quite as much as I love that one, I think she’s an amazing writer. Fun fact: Way back when I started doing Shelf Control posts, a Sarah Waters book (Affinity) was the 4th book I featured! And before you ask — no, I haven’t read that one yet either. Sigh. In any case, I do want to read The Paying Guests — I really want to know what the disturbances are that the synopsis mentions! I guess I just haven’t yet found myself in the mood to start this book, despite reading several really good reviews.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #4: Affinity

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Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

AffinityTitle: Affinity
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: 1999
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by one apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Selina was imprisoned after a séance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina’s gifts, Margaret is soon drawn into a twilight world of ghosts and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last driven to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina’s freedom, and her own.

How I got it:

I bought it.

When I got it:

At least 4 or 5 years ago.

Why I want to read it:

After reading Fingersmith, I was determined to read as many books by Sarah Waters as possible! Somehow, though, I never quite followed all the way through, and Affinity is one of the books I missed. I do have a copy, and a friend has been urging me to read it for years now. Spiritualists, asylums, Victorian London… sounds perfectly delicious.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link below!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and have fun!

 

For more on why I’ve started Shelf Control, check out my introductory post here, or read all about my out-of-control book inventory, here.

And if you’d like to post a Shelf Control button on your own blog, here’s an image to download (with my gratitude, of course!):

Shelf Control

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: The Paying Guests

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

My most wished-for book this week is:

The Paying Guests

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
(expected publication date: August 28, 2014)

Synopsis via Goodreads:

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the ‘clerk class’, the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all a wonderful, compelling story.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is one of my all-time favorite, most recommended, you’ve-absolutely-got-to-read-this books… so I’m pretty much willing to read whatever new book she comes up with. Granted, it seems like there are a ton of books out right now set in 1920s London — but no matter. I’m sure, in the hands of Sarah Waters, it will be genius! And meanwhile, maybe between now and the end of summer I can catch up on the two of her previous novels I’ve yet to read.

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Flashback Friday: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Fridays is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

My rules — since I’m making this up:

  1. Has to be something I’ve (you’ve) read myself (yourself) — oh, you know what I mean!
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

Add your link below — join in for Flashback Friday!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

(published 2002)

A book that quite simply took my breath away.

From Amazon:

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

The New York Times Book Review has called Sarah Waters a writer of “startling power” and The Seattle Times has praised her work as “gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and the senses.” Fingersmith marks a major leap forward in this young and brilliant career.

I first read Fingersmith in early 2011, after picking it up at a used book sale several months earlier. I hadn’t heard of the book or the author previously, but a booklover friend ordered me to “READ THAT BOOK IMMEDIATELY!” When someone with good book taste (i.e., book taste that aligns nicely with my own!) tells me that emphatically to read a particular book, I tend to listen. And in the case of Fingersmith, I’m oh so glad that I did.

Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads when I finished the book:

At the risk of gushing, let me just say that I LOVED this book. I can’t remember the last book that made me gasp out loud while reading — and this one did it at least three times. Fingersmith, set in Victorian England, gets its start, literally, in a den of thieves. It manages to incorporate every possible trope of the era, yet does so in a way that’s both fresh and startling. To disclose anything of the plot would be to ruin the joy of being shocked to the core by the twists and turns of this unusual book. Filled with well-drawn characters, including pickpockets and thieves, con men and gaolers, insane asylums nurses and booksellers, the mad and the suffering, Fingersmith is an evocative period piece as well as a superb literary adventure. I can’t recommend it highly enough, or give enough praise to the author’s achievement. I certainly look forward to reading more of her work!

I don’t give out five star reviews very often, but when I do, I really mean it. Fingersmith was absolutely a five-star book for me. Since reading Fingersmith, I’ve slowly been working my way through the rest of Sarah Waters’s books. (Really enjoyed Tipping the Velvet, liked The Little Stranger, looking forward to reading Affinity and The Night Watch).

Do yourself a favor: Read Fingersmith. And be sure to avoid all plot summaries! The shocks and surprises are not too be missed; don’t ruin it by peeking ahead!

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: This is my baby-steps attempt at a blog hop! Join in, post a Friday Flashback on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Let’s get this party started!