Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Great Torture 2014 -- *Spoiler Alert* The Paying Guests

The Paying GuestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[BTW already a number of people have entries in #parisreads, and are going to participate in National Readathon Day.  Yay!!  Click Here to Learn More]

Via Audio  -  This may be worthy of my 2014 Best Book I Hated, because that is how I felt 75% of the way through, but in the end I didn't hate it, I was just tortured by it. So I guess it gets the Great 2014 Pure Chinese Torture Award.
It's very well written, and just about gave me a heart attack.  It typically doesn't take me but about 3 or 4 days to read a book like this,  but this one,  about a quarter in,  I didn't want to read but couldn't stop. I almost quit reading about 30 times I'm sure, but in the end I kept having to return.  Curiosity Killed the Cat indeed!  I know it would have been less torture to read by book than by audio, because the narrator did a far superior job of telling the story that I every could have in my mind.  

I can't tell you anymore without spoilers so stop here if you don't want anything revealed.

**** SPOLIER ALERT ****

I picked this up because it made it through several rounds of Goodreads Best Book awards, which is always a great indication for a common reading fanatic. It was in the general lit category, otherwise I wouldn't have read it.   In a way, I feel betrayed by that and place the blame on the publisher label.  Yes it is well written,  so deserving of the lit title, but isn't it also a thriller? Close to an erotic thriller?  Shouldn't the general public have been fairly warned?  I thought I was getting a Downton Abbeyish, Atonement, Brideshead Revisited type book. Instead, I got a torrid love affair -not quite 50 Shades but still- and Crime and Punishment.

The set up is easy: Frances and her mother have fallen on hard times after the War, so they take on lodgers they call "Paying Guests" in order to soften the blow of their slide from the middle class.  The lodgers, both of them, are clearly going to shake up Frances' life by some love interest or other.  You know it could go any old way.

Here is the spoiler - Frances and Lilian fall into each other's arms with a passion that rivals the pain of Helen and Paris, and I say that because it ends up being devastating to all who surround them - and as with those two, you never know if they are truly in love, or just in blinding, selfish lust.  There are several references to Anna Karrinina, and -this being a literary book- you know that no word is wasted so you keep that in the back of your mind the entire length of the book.

An earthquake of an event happens and that is where the book becomes Crime and Punishment.  I won't tell you what happens, that is enough of a spoiler.   It is an incredible rendition of a C&P twist - with its mental gymnastics and mind boggling questions and doubts.  It was devastating and exhausting to me,  I just hate that torment. I'm probably more sensitive to it than most. I know it is because of the life I have.  I choose to not watch it on TV, I'm not numbed to it, I can never be.  So it was torment.  But such well written torment!  So if you can stand all that, it's a real page turner.  And if you haven't read C&P, this will be an excellent mod primer for you.

What is the moral of the story?   Know what you are getting, because if you get vested in this you need to just prepare everyone in your life that you are reading this book that you are going to have to talk about and put down and pick up, ad nauseum, until you either finish it or get therapy over it.


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