Author: Sadie Jones
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Source: Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of The Uninvited Guests for review on this blog. The opinions expressed here are my own and are not influenced by complimentary receipt of this book.
One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens of Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honour of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday. But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savoury survivors to seek shelter at the ramshackle manor -- and the household is thrown into confusion and mischief.
The cook toils over mock turtle soup and a chocolate cake covered with green sugar roses, which the hungry band of visitors is not invited to taste. But nothing, it seems, will go according to plan. As the passengers wearily search for rest, the house undergoes a strange transformation. One of their number (who is most definitely not a gentleman) makes it his business to join the birthday revels.
Evening turns to stormy night, and a most unpleasant parlour game threatens to blow respectability to smithereens: Smudge Torrington, the wayward youngest daughter of the house, decides that this is the perfect moment for her Great Undertaking.
The Uninvited Guests is the bewitching new novel from the critically acclaimed Sadie Jones. The prizewinning author triumphs in this frightening yet delicious drama of dark surprises - where social codes are uprooted and desire daringly trumps propriety - and all is alight with Edwardian with and opulence. (from the inside flap)
The Uninvited Guests charmed me from page one and those who love Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters will find a similarity here, however, with a more modern manner of writing. The entire novel takes place in just a day and a night but so much happens within a short span of time. The unexpected guests arrive as preparations for Emerald's party is underway and other guests are already in place. Not to be bothered with this undesirable situation, the "guests" are locked away in the morning room and/or the study, out of sight, out of mind. The "guests" themselves are dishevelled from their earlier encounter with disaster in a train derailment, and are uneasy, waiting for the train company to collect them. Initially they are patient, but as time wears on, and the party is about to begin, their presence is made uncomfortably known to all. To appease them, the birthday dinner is sent their way. But another guest has made an appearance on their doorstep. At once charming and debonair, his demeanour hides intentions that come out later in the evening, creating turmoil, hard feelings, and disaster as he reveals secrets long ago hidden.
From there true chaos ensues, a pony is allowed into the upstairs bedroom chambers by the youngest child, and all .... breaks loose. And the hilarity of the situation withdrew moments of mirth from myself. This is but the beginning of a very long night of fun, intrigue and disaster.
The Uninvited Guests is an entertaining bit of fiction with surprising unforeseen twists. In the end, though surprised and somewhat put back by some developments, I have to say The Uninvited Guests leaves me .... satisfied.
A glimpse of what I enjoyed:
"Emerald, ever loving, ever dutiful, went after her. Clovis, also loving, less dutiful, finished his rabbit pie." (p. 35)
(And after all the struggles of getting a pony up the stairs and past her mother's room...)
"I had better find something for you to eat," she said to the pony. "I don't want you to get bored and draw attention, neighing." (p. 101)
(really, after all the thudding of hooves on stairs, to which no one responded, Smudge was concerned the pony's neighing would draw attention? I just had to laugh.)
"In the border, Ernest and Emerald toiled together, clothes sticking to them, he breaking the compacted earth, she heaving it up.
'This is madness!' she cried, blood pounding around her body, palms wet and slippery on the handle of the shovel, and hair blown into her face as she worked.
And he, bringing the pick down, working its point into the solid so that she might take it up, glanced up at her and replied, 'Yes, it's marvellous. Magnificent." (p.233)
Meet the author:
Sadie Jones’s first novel, The Outcast, won the UK’s coveted Costa First Novel Award and was a finalist for the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles TimesBook Prize for First Fiction. She lives in London.