This is the story of Dr. Faraday and his relationships with the members of Hundred’s House. Roderick, Carolyn, and their mother live in the house, their estate in ruins and their financial situation dire. Dr. Faraday is called out for the first time to help treat one of their two servants, Betty, and slowly becomes friends with the family. Sadly, the family also starts to decline along with the house, falling into madness and death.
I was a little wary of trying Sarah Waters a second time after Fingersmith, but considering how much everyone loved that one, and how many people said this one wasn’t that great, I figured I might have the opposite reaction again. Simon Vance narrated the audiobook, and that gave me a nudge toward trying it for this year’s RIP.
The book started out very solidly, and it got really, really creepy in places, to the point of goose bumps! A lot of people complained about its slowness, but I didn’t feel like it was slow at all. I was compelled to keep listening and found excuses for doing so, so that I finished it in less than a week. It ended up being a very solid book, far better than Fingersmith.
In fact, until the very end, this was looking like a best-of-year book. Sadly, the end kind of fell apart for me. I kept waiting for the twist – either for the house to be revealed as haunted, or to find out who was behind all the issues driving the residents mad. I wondered if maybe Betty was in on it, or if Dr. Faraday himself was somehow part of all this, and mad himself. I wondered if Caroline was involved with Betty, particularly since Waters’ other books deal with lesbianism, but no, none of that happened or came to pass. In the end…there was just nothing. Nothing is ever explained, not rationally or supernaturally. It was like…well, it was like opening a puzzle, putting it together for the first time, and discovering that not all the pieces were in the box. I remember a few years back, my son Ambrose got a puzzle from Build a Bear for his birthday, and when he opened it, there were the right number of pieces, but he got two sets of the left side of the puzzle, and no pieces from the right side. That’s what the ending reminded me of.
It left me a bit disappointed, but otherwise, it was a solid book, and I hope one day to discuss it with other people – maybe I can make more sense of it then!
The audio narration, as expected, was fabulous. I love Simon Vance.