The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Giveaway: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Giveaway now closed.

As you know, the shortlist for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced last Monday evening. Before that happened, the people behind the Bailey’s Prize contacted me (along with other bloggers and book clubs) to see if I wanted to help involve more people in reading the shortlisted books. Of course I did! On Friday, the package below arrived at my house and that meant I had five copies of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters to give away to five of you.


I’m sure most of you are familiar with Sarah Waters. She’s written six books and won a host of awards as well as having been shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Women’s Fiction Prize three times. To tell you more about The Paying Guests, I’ve republished my review below, underneath which are the details of how you can win a copy.

London, 1922. The city is trying to rebuild itself after the war – not just in terms of the buildings but also its people: those who have been to war and returned injured and scarred – physically and mentally; those who made decisions that otherwise would have been considered rash; those who now find themselves in financial difficulties.

Frances Wray, 26, and her mother live in Champion Hill. Following the death of Frances’ father and her brother during the war, they fall into the latter of the categories listed above. In order to try and prevent them losing their family home, they decide to take some lodgers. As the novel begins, they are waiting for Mr and Mrs Barber to arrive. When they do, Frances helps with unloading the van:

Over his shoulder Frances caught a glimpse of what was inside it: a mess of bursting suitcases, a tangle of chair and table legs, bundle after bundle of bedding and rugs, a portable gramophone, a wicker birdcage, a bronze-effect ashtray on a marble stand…The thought that all these items were about to be brought into her home – and that this couple, who were not quite the couple she remembered, who were younger, and brasher, were going to bring them, and set them out, and make their own home, brashly, among them – the thought brought on a flutter of panic. What on earth had she done? She felt as though she was opening up the house to thieves and invaders.

The couple are part of the ‘clerk class’, he works for an insurance company, she, of course, stays at home and decorates their rooms with exotic ornaments and paraphernalia.

At first, Frances seems to see Mr Barber more often – when he is smoking in the back garden, or on his way to or from it. She fears he is teasing her when he speaks to her and quite often his words seem to contain an innuendo. For his part, he seems to have Frances pigeonholed as a stereotypical spinster.

Frances, however, we learn by increments, is a passionate woman – I use the word in both its senses. She was part of the suffrage movement, which was how she met her friend Christina, whom she visits regularly throughout the novel, and also how she came to be arrested. She’s also passionate about the upkeep of her and her mother’s house, which she has taken on since the servants had to be dismissed when they could no longer afford them. She has no qualms about cleaning, even though her mother despairs, and rejects her mother’s call to get Mr Barber when a mouse is found, catching and disposing of it herself.

Eventually, helped by a visit from Mrs Barber’s mother, sisters and nieces and nephews, Frances and Mrs Barber – Lillian – begin a friendship. It is a friendship that will transform both of them in unexpected ways.

‘…”Forgive me, Mrs Barber. I don’t mean to be mysterious. I don’t mean to be maudlin, either. All I’m trying to say, I suppose, is that this life, the life I have now, it isn’t – “ It isn’t the life I was meant to have. It isn’t the life I want! “It isn’t the life I thought I would have,’ she finished.

The Paying Guests considers ideas of class, money, passion, marriage, the aftermath of war, morality and justice. Many of these themes are, of course, significant today and Waters’ treatment of morality and justice, in particular, is challenging and thought-provoking.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, I suspect partly because I knew so little about it and I’ve tried to avoid saying too much about the plot here for that reason. It also contains some of Waters’ trademark twists – and they’re delicious!

Waters’ writing is clear and concise. Her style is fluent and so easy to read; I think sometimes the work that goes into creating something so consistently readable is underestimated. Here the writing allows you to become absorbed in Frances’ world, in London in 1922 and not once are you jolted out of it.

The Paying Guests is vintage Waters and spending a few hours in her carefully crafted world will not disappoint.

To win: All you need to do is leave a comment below saying why you’d like to read the book and follow the Bailey’s Prize on either Twitter or Facebook to join in the conversation. The giveaway is UK only and entries will close at 4pm on Friday 24th April. Five winners will be selected at random and notified as soon as possible after the close of entries.

Thanks to the Bailey’s Prize for the giveaway.

Giveaway winners

As I usually do, I’ve allocated everyone a number in order of entry. They are:

1 – Charleyface
2 – Louise Walters
3 – Janet Emson
4 – Alice
5 – Annecdotist
6 – Claire Fuller
7 – CherieSherrie
8 – Cath Barton
9 – HeavenAli
10 – Alison P
11 – Jessica
12 – Blogaboutwriting
13 – Teresa Majury
14 – Crimeworm
15 – CarolineC
16 – Jenny Ashcroft
17 – Catherine Miller
18 – Jim
19 – Kath
20 – Karen Goldup
21 – Elliemcc11
22 – Janine Phillips

And the winners are:

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 09.12.39 Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 09.12.48 Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 09.12.56 Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 09.13.03 Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 09.13.11


Congratulations to Annecdotist, Louise Walters, Catherine Miller, Kath and Janine Phillips. Check your emails. Thanks to everyone else for entering.

25 thoughts on “The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Giveaway: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

  1. I’d love to read this book because, from your review, it sounds like there’s a lot of interesting things happening with the characters (and perhaps even with their roles in their respective genders, which would make for really interesting reading for my own research). I’ve read Waters before and find that she’s always doing something interesting and often eye-opening with the people in her fiction, and I’d love to see what she’s doing in this publication.


  2. I would love to read this book. I’ve only read one Sarah Waters so far, The Nightwatch, and I have to say, I found it quite heavy going. I think I need to read more by her?! I’m already following The Baileys Prize on Twitter. Thanks for the chance to win x


  3. I’d love to read The Paying Guests because I think I’m in a similar life situation to the protagonist. In that, I too feel as if I too should be pushing towards a different role, that I shouldn’t be where I am. I enjoy a story where I can relate that closely to a character.

    Thank you for the giveaway 🙂


  4. I loved The Night Watch, so be interested to see what she’s made of the First World War fallout. And how fab – and well-deserved – to be contacted by the Bailey’s prize. A great endorsement of your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a ‘must read ‘ for me. I am writing a historic novel based on a true family story set in 1922, so hope to read similar themes of betrayal, love, passion, friendship, and justice in her story. I will follow ‘The Bailey’s Prize’ on Facebook. I have a Siamese with the name Bailey. It could be my lucky day…


  6. This book is on my to-read list – I greatly enjoyed The Night Watch and The Little Stranger and am hungry to read more by Sarah Waters. She writes so well and so interestingly. So I would love to win one of your copies. Thank you for the opportunity. I am already following The Bailey’s Prize on Facebook and Twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would love to read this book too. I have only read one of Sarah Water’s previous novels Fingersmith and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love this time period though so it immediately appeals for that reason alone. I saw the bbc adaptations of Tipping the velvet and Night watch she is certainly a great storyteller 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i have read all of Sarah Water’s books and can’t wait to read this one although was waiting for the paperback to come out so to win a copy would be a real treat.


  9. I’ve read and loved all of Sarah Waters’ books but struggled with my library copy of this. Would love to give it another go with the paperback as I think my low mood contributed to my giving up…


  10. Gotta be truthful – I’ve read the book (though I’d love my own copy!) but I don’t drink except for a wee Bailey’s at New Year – my Dad buys a whole bottle for me to have one glass. It’s like melted ice cream! Mmm!


  11. I would love to read this book – especially because I missed the author talk at Notts Waterstones last year (I bought a ticket and couldn’t go because I was ill). I loved The Little Stranger, Affinity and Fingersmith.


  12. I’ve loved Sarah’s previous books and look forward to this one. And .i have a holiday coming up so it would be a perfect read.


  13. I’ve read Sarah Waters books before and thoroughly enjoyed them. From what you’ve said above, the characters sound fascinating and I’m sure I’ll enjoy this one every bit as much as her previous novels. But I’ve already got a copy, so what I’d like to do if I’m lucky enough to win a copy is to give it to a friend of mine who loves Sarah Waters but has recently lost her job and can’t afford to buy this one. And I can’t afford to buy it for her birthday which is coming up on May 1st.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Loved The Little Stranger – I’m certain this will be equally superb. Saving up the pennies to buy it. I would but books instead of food !!
    Enjoy the Baileys !


  15. I’d love to win it because every time I enter a comp to win any of the books from the Bailey’s Prize I don’t win. I think I’m doomed. Seriously though, whilst I read pretty widely I’ve got to admit to not having read any of Sarah Waters books yet. This seems a good place to start and I like reading and reviewing literary fiction and historical fiction. And it’d be light relief from the current agony of re-writing and editing my Doctoral thesis…due in end June so it’s gotta be done but it’s slow progress…


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