Sarah Waters's sixth novel returns to the complexities of historical lesbian romance, set this time in the years following the Great War. While some people complained that her last novel The Little Stranger didn't have any lesbian characters, I rather enjoyed it. However, I did appreciate the intricacies of The Paying Guests and I put off reading it for quite some time to prolong the pleasure. I always remember one comment on Fingersmith saying that there are some books you envy people for not having read yet - I think this is another one from Waters.
Frances Wray and her widowed mother are forced to take in lodgers when their once-majestic home on Champion Hill becomes unaffordable. These 'paying guests' are Lilian and Leonard Barber, injecting life into the house that Frances and Mrs Wray find difficult to deal with. Against expectations, Frances and Lilian strike up a friendship. This, however, leads to complications which, in turn, leads to something so unexpected that I almost put the book down to applaud before going back to marvel at the foreshadowing.
To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement and I don't want to say too much about it. What I will say is that the atmosphere built in this novel teeters on the right side of claustrophobic and the characterisation is brilliant, from the protagonists down to the incidentals. The Paying Guests is a sumptuous novel and, yes, I do envy those yet to read it.
This book was read as part of the 'Women' reading challenge, details here.