The Paying Guests
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The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.
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.
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.
the grand houses and gardens from which the park had been patched together years before: the stranded portico; a sundial, still telling the time for a lost age; a mournful avenue of trees, leading nowhere. Frustrated, she kept moving. She thought she had come in here to find Lilian, but she realised as she made the turn from one path to another that she was not so much in search of something as in flight: she was trying to outrun the implications of Edith’s visit. She kept seeing Edith’s ring.
good as a confession. He released her arm. ‘You were in on it too? Jesus Christ! I don’t believe it!’ Lilian said, ‘Frances has been looking after me.’ ‘Oh, she’s been looking after you, all right.’ He put his hand to his greased hair. ‘God! Is this what you women get up to? And then you complain when men call you devious! How many other times have you done it? – No, look at me. Listen to me. I don’t care how ill you are.’ He stood over Lilian. ‘How many times, since that first one?’ She
Reluctantly, she left the window. She went to the chair beside the hearth. Again she had to disguise the soreness of her legs and arms as she sat. She kept at the front of the chair with her hands held out to the flames; she felt unnaturally cold, she realised. ‘We’ve been at the police station.’ ‘The police station?’ ‘They drove us there from the mortuary. They wanted to go through Lilian’s statement.’ ‘They took a statement from me. They said there’ll have to be an inquest, that we might
mother to see them, either. Once she was back at the house she took them straight up to her bedroom and spread them out on the floor. She recalled the man with the camera. The pictures showed Lilian leaving the inquest, leaning on her sister’s arm, nervously lowering her head. They were grainy and unsubtle – mere approximations, really – but, all the same, they had captured something of Lilian, they had got the life and solidity of her, and it was incredible, dizzying, mad! to think of the
the equivalent of Clapham Railway Junction. One of us is always going across it, or backing out of it – or lurking in a siding until the line is clear.’ ‘And how’s your mother taken to it all?’ ‘Yes, Mother’s keeping her end up.’ ‘She doesn’t mind sleeping on the dining-table, or whatever it is she’s doing? Rum to picture her as a landlady, I must say! Has she steamed open any post yet?’ Frances made no answer to that. But Christina didn’t seem to expect one. She was yawning again, and