The Paying Guests

The Paying Guests

Sarah Waters

“An almost painfully gripping read from a writer at the top of her game. The combination of romance and crime drama is both engrossing and hugely satisfying. You will find yourself thinking about this book for weeks after you devour the final page.” Laura Bates, Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 judge.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in the south of the city, on genteel Champion Hill, in a hushed Camberwell villa still recovering from the devastating losses of the First World War, life is about to be transformed.

Widowed Mrs Wray and her daughter, Frances – an unmarried woman with an interesting past, now on her way to becoming a spinster – find themselves obliged to take in lodgers. The arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the ‘clerk class’, brings unsettling things with it: gramophone music, colour, fun. Open doors offer Frances glimpses of the newcomers’ habits, sounds travel from their rooms to hers, and the staircase and landing have never seemed to her so busy.

As she and Lilian are drawn into an unexpected friendship, loyalties begin to shift. Secrets are confessed, dangerous desires admitted; the most ordinary of lives, it seems, can explode into passion and drama. And in the house on Champion Hill, no one can foresee just how far the disturbances will reach.

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