Book Review: The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
May 17, 2012 30 Comments
Number of pages: 272
First published: 2012 (May 1st)
Genre: contemporary fiction
I got this book: for review from Harper (an imprint of HarperCollins)
This was a real fun book to read! The beginning of the book reminded me of The Stranger’s Child (Alan Hollinghurst) while the ending was more like Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons). Of course, the story is nothing like these books, it’s just me with my weird associations!
The Uninvited Guests: What it is about
At Sterne Manor, around 1900, things are not well. Edward Swift, the man of the house, has gone to Manchester in an attempt to borrow money that will save the family from having to sell their house. It’s also his stepdaughter Emerald’s 20th birthday and preparations are made for a wonderful dinner.
Then a group of unexpected guests arrive – a train has derailed and this being the nearest house to the accident, the survivors have been sent here. Caroline, Edwards wife and Emerald’s mother, does not concern herself with such matters and leaves it to her Emerald and Clovis, her teenage son, to take care of the guests. In fact, she’s not very good at taking care of anything because there is also the much younger daughter Smudge, who has spent days in her bedroom pretending to be ill, with not a single visit from her mother to check up on her.
Meanwhile, the invited guests have also arrived – a childhood friend of Emerald’s and her brother, and the nearby farmer who is richer than the Swifts themselves (who Caroline wouldn’t mind marrying Emerald).
The guests from the rail accident want to know when they can leave (and would like some food in the mean time, please), the dinner party is about to begin, and Emerald and the servants are trying to keep on top of it all. Then another uninvited, and unwelcome, guest arrives at the house. Things run out of hand fast.
The Uninvited Guests: What I thought
I loved this book. The atmosphere is great, there is a real sense of being in a manor house, snobbish Caroline, working-class railroad guests and it reads just like a book written in the era itself. I also loved the supernatural feel of the story – what’s real and what isn’t?
The quirkyness of the story is great too: the mother who doesn’t care about most things, the farmer who is richer than the manor house owners, the problems phoning the railway for information, a horse that is brought into the house, the dinner games that are played and so much more.
It was beautifully written but still a fast read. I mentally chuckled all the way through the book.