Feminist Friday: The Paying Guests (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 27 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: The Paying Guests (A Tournament of Books Selection)The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Published by Penguin on September 16th 2014
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Literary
Pages: 576
Goodreads
three-stars

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.

What I liked about this book was the way it shook up gender roles within the narrative of historical fiction. I liked that Frances wanted to be independent and live on her own and have a real career outside of being a housewife. I liked that the first ‘friend’ Frances had actually realized that vision. 

What I can’t say is if this gives an accurate portrayal of post WWI English life, the NYT says that it does, so maybe my issue is that I’m not a hard-core historical fiction fan, nor am I a fan of romance. I’d categorize The Paying Guests under both of these labels, with a little murder/mayhem thrown in.

Look. This book is a perfect example of a well written book that just wasn’t for me. I only picked it up because of the Tournament of Books and even then was hesitant to do so because I knew enough about the novel to feel like it wasn’t in my usual wheelhouse. (This is not to say that the reading made me uncomfortable in any way, just that it’s not on my interest radar.) 

So. If you’re a historical fiction buff with a penchant for a little romance on this side, this might be for you. 

How will this fare in the Tournament? I think that it’s a close call with it paired up against A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall – but I think that ultimately A Brave Man will prevail out of the first round. We shall see.

Fabulous differing perspectives found from:
Michael at Literary Exploration
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books
Andi at Estella’s Revenge

How did you feel about The Paying Guests, Reader? When was the last time you read outside of your genre wheelhouse?

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

6 Comments/ : , , , , ,

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  • I do really like Waters, but I just felt like she wasn’t at her best with this one. I agree with everything you’ve said, but I still felt meh about it.

  • I kept seeing glowing reviews for this one, but it just didn’t seem like something I’d get pulled into.

    I feel like all I’ve been doing is blabbing about how awesome A Wizard of Earthsea is lately, but I don’t often read young adult fantasy. I was pleasantly surprised by how fantastic it is.

  • Ehhh see, you pointed out exactly what’s been keeping me from picking up this one: “…maybe my issue is that I’m not a hard-core historical fiction fan, nor am I a fan of romance.”

  • I liked how Frances defied social norms, but this book felt so much more like a soap opera than I had expected. A secret lesbian affair! Accidental (?) murder and a cover-up! I wasn’t a huge fan.

  • The Paying Guests is definitely outside of my genre wheelhouse (love that term, btw). I almost never read historical or romance. But I keep thinking I’d like to try it, so it’s in my TBR stack right now. Not sure when I’ll get to it, though!

  • Jennine G.

    I’ve seen many positive reviews of this. Your description of genre means I’d probably enjoy it. Yet, I’ve never felt inclined to pick it up. Weird.