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Extended Audio Sample The Paying Guests Audiobook, by Sarah Waters Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sarah Waters Narrator: Juliet Stevenson Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2014 ISBN: 9780698179929
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From the bestselling author of The Little Stranger comes an enthralling novel about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out of work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’ life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching and devastating the disturbances will be.

Author Sarah Water, whose works have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize three times, has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place, The Paying Guests is Sarah Waters’ finest achievement yet.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[A] pulse-pounder of a novel that feels…personal and raw…even while it delivers the genre goods…Waters remains a master of her genre, the historical novel rewritten as a dissection of the individual conscience…undeniably fascinating.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Begin The Paying Guests and you’ll immediately surrender to the smooth assuredness of Sarah Waters’s silken prose…A novel that initially seems as if it might have been written by E. M. Forster darkens into something more akin to the works of Dostoevsky or Patricia Highsmith. In The Paying Guests, Waters has produced a beautifully delineated love story and a darkly suspenseful psychological tale.”

    Washington Post

  • “Waters excels at presenting the raw interiority of a quietly heroic woman, slightly too ahead of her time…a poignant love story which symbolically sees, in the death of the old order, the death of the old-fashioned husband and maybe the birth of an era of love without secrets.”

    Independent (London)

  • “One of the greatest modern novelists… As in every Waters novel you will be hooked within a page…The Paying Guests reminds us of every great novel we’ve gasped or winced at, or loudly urged the protagonists through, and it does not relent…Read it, Flaubert, Zola, and weep.”

    Financial Times (UK)

  • “Stevenson, a familiar face to British TV and film audiences, is the go-to narrator for nineteenth-century novels told from a female perspective, which makes her very well suited to Waters’ richly plotted fiction…Social class is always a key theme in Waters’ fiction, and Stevenson uses the various characters’ accents to delineate all its subtle permutations.”


  • “Morally complex, atmospheric, romantic, and psychologically deep, The Paying Guests is an astonishing achievement…a beautiful and brilliant work by a consummate storyteller.”

    Sunday Express (London)

  • “In less skilled hands, [the] prolonged stage-setting would test even the most patient reader. But in Waters’, it’s mesmerizing, with every small but evocative detail serving to transport you further into this place and time…By the novel’s conclusion, you have gone from straight-up period piece, to love story, to edge-of-your-seat crime thriller. For a story set just after WWI, some of the themes Waters touches on are surprisingly contemporary. History does repeat itself sometimes, and so it goes for Sarah Waters, with yet another masterful novel.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “With two brothers killed in WWI and a debt-ridden father who followed them to the grave soon afterward, twenty-seven-year-old spinster Frances Wray knows that she and her mother must take in lodgers (euphemistically described as ‘paying guests’) to maintain their large house in a genteel section of London…Waters’s restrained, beautiful depiction of lesbian love furnishes the story with emotional depth, as does the suspense that develops during the tautly written murder investigation and ensuing trial.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “An exquisitely tuned exploration of class in post-Edwardian Britain—with really hot sex…Waters keeps getting better, if that’s even possible after the sheer perfection of her earlier novels.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Frances Wray is a woman of limited opportunities stuck in genteel poverty in an England that has not quite recovered from World War I. When she and her mother begin renting out half of their house to the Barbers, the change is disruptive…Waters keeps you guessing until the very end.”

    Library Journal

  • “In a remarkable combination, Juliet Stevenson enlivens Sarah Waters’ rich, intimate character study set in 1920s London…Using a variety of British accents, Stevenson makes class and regional distinctions clear, bringing depth to the many characters and what divides them…Flawless are the passages of confrontation between characters, as Stevenson never hesitates to modulate her tone, adjust her pace, or employ a deliberate pause to bring the listener in closer. An authentic, stirring performance. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • “Waters’ striking portrayal of Edwardian Britain and its class conflicts adds a rich layer to this emotionally fraught and deeply affecting story…Fans of Sarah Waters’ previous novels know that she is a gifted storyteller with a way of bringing historical eras to life. She is sensitive to the telling details of character and class…With the swiftly shifting mores of postwar British society as a backdrop, Waters once again provides a singular novel of psychological tension, emotional depth and historical detail.”


  • “Will keep you turning the page to see just how tense things can get.”


  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A NPR Bestseller
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
  • A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
  • A Washington Post Bestseller
  • A 2014 New York Times Notable Book
  • A Salon Best Audiobook of the Year for 2014
  • A September 2014 LibraryReads Pick
  • A Library Journal Bestseller
  • A Washington Post Top 10 Book of 2014
  • A BookPage Best Book of 2014
  • Finalist for the 2014 Kirkus Prize
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014
  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, September 2014
  • A New York Times Bestseller
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About the Author
Author Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is the New York Times bestselling author of The Little Stranger, The Night Watch, Fingersmith, Affinity, and Tipping the Velvet. She has three times been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, twice been a finalist for the Orange Prize, and was named one of Granta’s best young British novelists, among other distinctions.

About the Narrator

Juliet Stevenson has won an Audie Award and numerous Earphones Awards for her narrations. She is a British actress on stage and screen and notably a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has also appeared in popular films such as Bend It Like Beckham and Mona Lisa Smile. She was honored as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. She received further recognition when she was nominated for several BAFTA Awards, and she earned an Olivier Award for her role in Death and the Maiden.