#onthebookshelf The Paying Guests- Sarah Waters

When I picked up this book, I didn’t know that much about it really apart from I’d seen it everywhere and so, my ultimate fear being a FOMOphobic, I downloaded it and opened it up to my Kindle without so much as a clue what to expect.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to be surprised, because, I didn’t have any expectations in the first place- but I was.

This is a novel about post-war struggles from a female perspective, class mobility, the seductiveness of the working-class and, you won’t believe, a lesbian relationship.

The story opens with Frances, a spinster with quite a colourful past, and her worn out mother, welcoming a young married couple, a little gaudier and of a different class to those they’re used to socialising with, into their home as lodgers- or as paying guests as Frances prefers to refer to them.

Mrs Barber, with her bohemian scarves, colourful cushions and tambourine at first tip toes into Frances life, and then crashes in, cymbals banging together until she truly overtakes it.  Frances and Lillian’s friendship develops into much more than that of lodger and landlord and before long, Frances is stealing moments with Lillian, conducting her affair whilst her mother’s at church and Lillian’s husband, Len, is out at work as an insurer.


But then, Something Happens. Something happens to disrupt this little lesbian dream land Lil and Fran have built around them. Lil only goes and gets herself preggers!

Lil takes some pills to get rid of Len’s offspring so Fran and herself can continue their dream of moving out, and going to art school being totally broke but living on their love for each other.

Unfortunately, Len’s not best happy when he finds out and, oopsy la, a struggle later, Len’s on the floor having been bashed around the head and Lil and Fran are no murderers.

Looks like Lil’s neck may be accessorised with a noose rather than her velvet chokers and crimson scarves she usually wears.

One of those slow burner books that slams you in the face with the plot line when you’ve got an inkling of giving up and then subsequently fail to have dinner because you need to read more.  There’s some beautiful turns of phrases and descriptions especially about class difference and the way London is depicted.

Recommend highly.

You will like if: you like postwar gritty drama with a dash of lesbianism

Avoid: reading on the tube when said lesbiasm gets a bit graphic if you’re face can be read like an open book

Overall: 5 stars



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