Friday, August 10, 2012

The Uninvited Guests

Title: The Uninvited Guests
Author:  Sadie Jones
Publication Information:  HarperCollins Publishers. 2012. 262 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book as this month's selection for our local book club.

Favorite Quote:  "There was a mist between her and her childhood self, made up of grief and multiple small denials, and she did not care to try to look through it."

The Uninvited Guests on its surface is the story of one day during the early 1900s at Sterne, the home of Emerald Torrington and her family. It is Emerald's twentieth birthday, and there is to be a fancy dinner party in her honor. The attendees include her mother, her brother Clovis, her younger sister Imogen ("Smudge"), a neighbor, and two out of town guests - Ernest and his sister Patience. Of course, there is also the household staff attempting to complete the preparations for the dinner party.

Then, the "uninvited guests" arrive. Apparently, there has been a train crash nearby, and passengers need accommodations until the railway can figure out a way to transport them to their destination. A horde of passengers arrive, and the household is turned upside down trying to accommodate them while still maintaining a separation for the invited guests and the dinner party. One of the "uninvited guests" turns out to have a connection to the past.

And, so, the story continues through the night in a most unusual manner.

This is one of the oddest books I have read in a long time. My first reaction was that the book is a little bit like Jane Austen meets Upstairs Downstairs meets The Addams Family. The book has some very interesting (odd/strange/bizarre/unexpected - take your pick of adjectives) twists and turns. Very unexpected.

In the end, however, it was a very quick and a very easy read. It was an engaging read because it kept me guessing where it was going to go. Finally, it kept me reading to see where this imaginative tale was going to end up. What on its surface appears to be like an Edwardian novel ends up being a complete flight of fancy - sometimes dark, sometimes amusing, and entertaining throughout.

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