Reading: Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests

The thought that all these items were about to be brought into her home – and that this couple, who were not quite the couple she remembered, who were younger, and brasher, were going to bring them, and set them out, and make their own home, brashly, among them – the thought brought on a flutter of panic. What on earth had she done? She felt as though she was opening up the house to thieves and invaders.
— Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests

During my holiday, I finally had the chance to read some of the books that have been collecting dust on my bedside table. First up: Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests, a brilliant novel I picked up on Hannah-Rose Yee's recommendation. The book's hardback format had initially stopped me from taking this on trips with me, but when is a better time to read hardbacks than on holiday?!

What initially starts out as a portrayal of two women's fate after WWI in the 1920s, forced to take on lodgers to make ends meet in their middle-class house, quickly turns into a fast-paced thriller full of surprises. "Cross-grained, unmarriageable" Frances Wray and her mother live in a large and now – father and brothers being dead – half-empty villa in sleepy Champion Hill. When their "paying guests", working-class couple Lilian and Leonard Barber, arrive in their settled environment, they bring with them laughter, music and the underlying threat of changing their surroundings beyond recognition.

Waters' ability to set up scenes and create atmosphere is simply marvellous and I wasn't able to put the book down from the moment I started reading it. Make this your next holiday read – it will most certainly surprise you with its plot twist.

Lilly Wolf