Sarah Waters || The Paying Guests

One thing one can say about Sarah Waters, she knows how to write a fast track novel. Never a dull moment in The Paying Guests, which does not mean that we are lead from one exciting event to another. On the contrary, apart from a murder nothing much happens. The emotional turmoil however that is caused by two women falling in love is enormous. In The Paying Guests mother and daughter Wray have to accept two paying guests into their house; with hardly any income at all their debts are growing and growing, the rent can set them at ease. Daughter Frances grudgingly accepts the arrival of Liliane and Leonard Barber and tries to accommodate their presence into her life. At a certain point however she finds herself drawn towards Lilian Barber. At first she hides her feelings and does not let Lilian know that she is drawn to her. Then it becomes clear that Lilian has started to fall in love with Frances as well. The two indulge in a secret love affair, taking advantage of every second they are on their own. Frances allows herself to contemplate a future living with Lilian and shares these thoughts with her lover. Lilian at first doubts and cannot see herself leaving her family or her husband. After having spent a week of holidays with her husband she realises that she too wants to spend her life with Frances. Precisely at that moment they are caught by Leonard. In the hassle that ensues he gets hit with a heavy ash tray and dies. In the panic of the moment they hide the body, from that moment on their lives are determined by fear of discovery, of being split apart of not telling anybody the truth. The tension also makes Frances doubt her love for Lilian.  When a young man is accused of having murdered Leonard both women have to face up to the fact that an innocent man might get the death sentence for a crime Lilian had committed. And having to face the fact that neither of them is brave enough to tell the truth. Frances is going through a turmoil of emotions which Waters describes in detail. One can feel Frances’ anguish exuding from the pages. Her emotions (fear, doubt, anger) are real and convincing. I could accept her doubting, worrying, fretting, missing and at the same time despising Lilian because any normal woman would have those emotions.  It takes Waters’ talent to write it down in such a convincing way. When at the very end the jury declares the young man innocent Frances is relieved and anguished at the same time. She is convinced that Lilian will never look at her again. She however follows Frances and in meeting again under less stressful circumstances they both feel that there might be a future for them together. One cannot imagine fireworks and highly exuberant music accompanying this scene, it is tentative and therefore highly convincing. I loved The Paying Guests: it was an emotional rollercoaster thundering to its finale.


About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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One Response to Sarah Waters || The Paying Guests

  1. Pingback: A Bailey’s Prize Short List Recap: Sarah Waters || The Paying Guest | booksandliliane

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