The Shiny Book Club – The Paying Guests – Now let’s discuss…

Introduced by Simon

Get ready for the second round of The Shiny Book Club! For this issue (though the discussion will take place in our Extra Shiny issue in about six weeks’ time) the book chosen by the SNB editors is The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. It’s pretty long, but it’s a page-turner, and we think there is lots to discuss.

You can read Harriet’s review here, if you need persuading. In brief, the novel is set in 1922. Frances Wray lives with her mother; her brothers have died at war, and (less regretted by her) Frances’ father has also recently died. Too respectable to work, but too poor to maintain their standards, they have had to accept paying guests. These turn up in the form of Mr and Mrs Barber. They are more or less an ordinary upper-working class family. He (Len) makes jokes which are borderline vulgar and has a steady but uninteresting job; she (Lilian) is emotional and artistic, hoping to better herself.

From there, the novel includes both romance and high drama. I shall say no more, for fear of spoiling it, but here are some questions to consider as you read. Come back and discuss the book with fellow readers when Extra Shiny is published!

1. If you’ve read other novels by Sarah Waters, how do you feel this fits into her existing work? What similarities and differences did you notice?

2. How do you think Sarah Waters deals with questions of morality in The Paying Guests?

3. Domestic details are very important in the novel: what effect do you think the house and its contents had on the characters and on the reader?

4. How does Waters deal with class issues in the novel, and how important do you think this aspect of The Paying Guests is?

5. The ending… was it what you expected, or were you surprised? What impact do you think it has on the rest of the narrative?

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Dec 2020: This discussion is CLOSED. Apologies, the comments were lost when we had to rebuild the website.

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