There are things I want to tell you but can’t about The Paying Guests. There’s a catchy title for this blog post that I avoided using to avoid spoiling key plot points. So I’ll say what I can in this post without saying too much about The Paying Guests but really you should just read it. The excellent Sarah Waters wrote an excellent novel. The book is in three parts and Waters drops a major bomb at the end of each of the first two sections. Those two major bombs are what the book is about but I think it’s better if you don’t see any of it coming. So don’t read any of the full reviews, don’t read the Wikipedia summary, don’t pay too much attention to the jacket copy. Just read.
The book starts slow, picks up, and then lags a bit again in the middle but stick with it and you’ll fly through the final third. The dread in Waters’ prose creeps up on you and the book’s length is necessary to make you squirm. And squirm you will as dark events and their potential consequences pile up.
In an interview with Vogue, Waters stated that she set out to write a love story, not a crime story, though I’m not sure she succeeded. Not that the novel isn’t a success but it reads more like Patricia Highsmith than Charlotte Bronte and I wish the marketing of the novel would embrace the dark vibe of the book. The cover image in the post looks to be from the UK edition and has the noir vibe that is missing from all discussion of The Paying Guests in North America.