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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters: Do Lesbians and Good Writing Outweigh Anxiety? (maybe)



Sarah Waters is The Lesbian Author to Read. Other than Michelle Tea. And maybe Alice Walker. When you consider the number of people in this world and then the number of authors and then the number of GOOD authors, think how much smaller that last number is going to be for particular subgroups. Sarah Waters gets extra points because she usually sets her novels in the 19th century and also wrote an entire book about different types of lesbian relationships in Victorian England (see: Tipping the Velvet, which you should read yesterday).

And then they made movies of them!

Her newest book, The Paying Guests -- which I stalked my way into getting at Book Expo America -- is set in London in the 1920s. An upper middle class woman and her mother have to take in lodgers to get out of debt, and when a married couple moves in, romantic shenanigans ensue. AS WELL THEY SHOULD. Then a crisis of course arises (someone gets straight-up murdered sort of) and the rest of the book concerns said crisis.


I was SO INTO THIS at its beginning, and then it made me anxious. Oh, so anxious. 




There's a reason I don't watch horror or suspense movies. when I see a person open a refrigerator door, I immediately start panicking and going "THE OTHER PERSON'S GOING TO BE THERE WHEN YOU CLOSE IT AGAIN WHY DID YOU OPEN THAT DOOR CONSTANT VIGILANCE." This book was more the sort of unease you get, though, when the girl in the horror movie's walking through the house and it's completely quiet except for some creaking floorboards and you're SO ON EDGE because at any moment someone's going to jump out and chase her.

Despite my general interest in life ending around 1913, I do like when authors try to cover post-WWI England. So much had changed! People had all these feelings! Disillusionment! So I was strangely proud of Sarah Waters for tackling this along with her romantic storyline. 

Did I like it as much as The Night Watch? Noooo. But they're different sorts of books. Even though both are set after world wars. But no, Night Watch followed multiple storylines and The Paying Guests sticks with Upper Middle Class Woman (Frances) and her inner journey, which is interesting in and of itself, but I think my order of preference for Waters books as of now would go:

Tipping the Velvet
The Night Watch
Fingersmith
The Paying Guests
Affinity

And then I didn't read The Little Stranger because no lesbians and people who read it said it was meh anyway.

Basically, with The Paying Guests, you get anxiety but you also get good writing and an interesting view of London in the 1920s and you come away feeling like you've learned something. Also you should probably read it because then we can talk about how you felt about Frances/Person She Gets Involved With, because I have CONFLICTING EMOTIONS in that regard.

yes, exactly.

ALL THE SARAH WATERS THOUGH.

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