It is 1949. Britain is still feeling the effects of the war. In rural Warwickshire, Dr.Faraday is called to Hundreds Hall to check on the well being of a servant in the Ayres family home. As a child Dr. Faraday was in the house once. His mother was a nursemaid there when she was younger. He was captivated by the house, the family and their wealth. On this visit, he is dismayed by the decline of both house and family. Mrs Ayres lives there with her son Roddie, who was injured in the war and is struggling to keep the family home afloat. Daughter Caroline was called home to help when Roddie returned from the war and never left. The only live in servant left is a fourteen year old girl.
From that first visit, Dr. Faraday slowly becomes part of the family's life. He is called on often to treat Roddie. Something ails Roddie besides his physical injuries. The young servant girl insists there is something 'wrong' with the house. Caroline begins to wonder this as well, as more misfortune befalls the family.
" This house is playing parlour games with us, I think. We shan't pay it any mind if it starts up again."
She confides in Dr. Faraday and enlists his help.
" I don't know what's going on here, any more than you do. But I'd like to help you figure it out. I'll take my chances with the hungry house, don't worry about that."
This is a tale with a 'gothic' feel to it, a ghost story of sorts. But it doesn't involve overt frights or over the top scenarios. Instead it is all the more delicious for the subtle and insidious manner in which the story unfolds. Everyday items and occurrences suddenly take on a sinister bent.
The interplay between the characters is just as much a part of the story. Dr. Faraday is a bit of an enigma. He is from a lower social class than the Ayres. At times he is made painfully aware of this. At other times, the Ayres family seems to depend on him excessively. Is he there for himself, for personal gain or simply to be in the house again? The other main character Caroline is also a mystery. At times she is playful, other times aloof and practical. What does she really want from the good Doctor? Many of the other characters give us a glimpse into the social life and mores of the time period.
Waters is a master of building a story. The tension grows and we are left wondering if the house is indeed perpetrating these calamities or is it the residents of the house?
Has anyone else read this yet? I'd love to discuss the ending with you.