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