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The Paying Guests

By: Sarah Waters
Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
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Summary

Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award 2014

There came the splash of water and the rub of heels as Mrs Barber stepped into the tub. After that there was a silence, broken only by the occasional echoey plink of drips from the tap....

Frances had been picturing her lodgers in purely mercenary terms - as something like two great waddling shillings. But this, she thought, was what it really meant to have paying guests: this odd, unintimate proximity, this rather peeled-back moment, where the only thing between herself and a naked Mrs Barber was a few feet of kitchen and a thin scullery door. An image sprang into her head: that round flesh, crimsoning in the heat.

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.

For 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. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

This is vintage Sarah Waters: beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises. It is above all a wonderful, compelling story.

2015, Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, Long-listed

2015, The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, Long-listed

2015, IBW Book Award, Winner

2016, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Long-listed

©2014 Sarah Waters (P)2014 Hachette Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

What listeners say about The Paying Guests

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Compelling

Another brilliant book by Sarah Waters beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson.

I was gripped from start to finish.

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Two books in one

This is probably my favourite novel by Waters yet; it is certainly the most sophisticated. The first half is an exquisite and moving portrayal of life in post-war London for a young single middle-class woman who is looking after her mother after her father died, leaving them with debt. They take on lodgers and the story revolves around the impact this socially mobile couple have on the narrator and her mother. There is nearly always a twist with Waters. I hoped there wasn't going to be with this one because it was so realistic, so well-observed and so completely moving. And then the twist came and the novel became something different. I can't say what without ruining it but while I was still totally enthralled I felt sorry that she hadn't stuck with the way it seemed to be going at first. I still think it deserves five stars and I highly recommend it.

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incredible

slow start but gripped once the story got going. the story was delivered perfectly, such amazing talent! thank you for bringing an amazing story to life.

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Gets better as the story goes on.

Good novel but slow start. You warm up to Francis eventually & Lillian. Go read!

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Good but a bit bored of Sarah Waters now!

I really enjoy her writing but it just seems to be another lesbian love affair but in a different decade to her books before! I guess if I googled the author before I would realise that she primarily focuses on lesbian relationships but I found this book a bit predictable because having read a couple of her other books I knew what was coming and that spoilt it a bit.

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Recommended

Brilliant. V well written and never flagged from start to finish. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone at any time.

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Wonderful. I've missed Sarah Waters.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, totally. Sarah Waters has her own distinct style and once you get it you thrive on it.

What did you like best about this story?

Everything. Probably the characters.

Which character – as performed by Juliet Stevenson – was your favourite?

Frances and Lily equally. The light and shade and how the narrator handled their relationship was perfect.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, lots of emotion, particularly in the court scenes when Frances's total despair nearly won.

Any additional comments?

Highly recommended.

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What a surprise!

I was recommended this book by my mother in law.. I started to listen and initially thought it was a strange recommendation, but then all of a sudden the whole theme changed and I was totally sucked in. A great book worth a listen.

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Beautifully written.

Not particularly into lesbian sex to be honest - but that aside the book was hugely enjoyable. Very atmospheric and the post WW1 setting in south London was very convincing.

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Amazing writing read beautifully

Loved it. Romantic but also agonising at times. Great narration by Juliet Stevenson. You won’t regret the purchase.

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