The Paying Guests gave me an eerie feeling that Sarah Waters had surreptitiously been on my Tumblr and somehow found this short story I had posted a few years ago about the affair between a landlady and her lodger. One of them was even called Lilian! How weird is that. So weird.But also kind of flattering.To think that me and Sarah Waters have had such similar ideas for a story. The main difference is that she set out to write a proper novel about it; I just wrote it for the smut.
So, for most of the book, I enjoyed reading about “my” idea written beautifully and with more complex ideas than just having the two characters shagging each other. I loved the tension between them, the courting, the romance, everything. I loved Frances more than Lilian, but then I liked Lilian because she liked Frances. It was always in the back of my mind the idea that Frances could have done better than Lilian, but until around THE THING happens, I could have lived with it. I could have lived with many things. I didn’t expect this story to go well. We’re talking adultery here. There must be some sort of drama at some point. I was expecting scandal, regret, hurt, jealousy, disillusionment, even the end of the romance. What I wasn’t prepared for was for the novel to turn into a legal case. To have a good third of the book deal with a trial was not what I was looking forward to. I find court cases in movies, TV shows and books extremely boring. But as it turned out, Sarah Waters loves all that shit and she was actually INSPIRED by murder cases in the ‘20s so much so that she wrote a novel about it.
If only I had read the author’s notes beforehand. But, of course, who does that.
So, as you might have noticed,I didn’t warn you about spoilers because I think people should be aware of what they’re getting into. There will be a trial for murder, and it will go on until the rest of the book. There, now you know. If you are into that, you’ll love it - because it’s still Sarah Waters writing, it’s not like she handed it over to John Grisham. If you don’t, well, tough shit. You had more than half of the book to enjoy without dealing with courts and witnesses and body of evidences and verdicts that take ages to arrive. And even if you didn’t get into the romance completely (it did wear thin after a while, to be honest. Because Lilian), you still have the writing. The writing is gorgeous, as usual.