Reading lists

Ruth Ware on the books that taught her how to build suspense

Ruth Ware, author of In A Dark, Dark Wood, recommends five books that taught her how to build suspense.

The Little Stranger

Sarah Waters

Ask six different people about the ending to The Little Stranger and you will likely get six different explanations, and one of the things I love most about the book is the fact that at the end, nothing is tied up with a neat bow - Waters leaves the reader still stranded on the shifting sands of perception, uncertain about how much responsibility for the deaths and hauntings at Hundreds Hall lies with her supremely unreliable narrator Dr Faraday. Other writers have done unreliable narrators equally well, but few have so much fun toying with the terrified, nail-chewing reader.

My Cousin Rachel

Daphne du Maurier

If you ask people to name a du Maurier novel, they will probably say Rebecca (or maybe even Trilby, by Daphne's father, George) and although both are great novels, and masterly studies in human nature and obsessive attraction, I think that My Cousin Rachel probably ranks above them for both those qualities. At the heart of the book is Rachel, distant cousin to the young and idealistic narrator Philip, and widow to his guardian Ambrose, but who is she, and does she deserve his disapprobation, or devotion? As Philip see-saws back and forth between obsessive hatred, and unreasoning adoration, Daphne du Maurier's great achievement is to play with the reader's perceptions so that sometimes we're aligned with Philip's suspicions, and sometimes wholeheartedly at odds with his feelings, but always desperate to know the truth about the enigmatic Rachel.

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