Review: 'The Uninvited Guests'
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012 - 11:17am
I’ve just read a strange and delightful book by British novelist Sadie Jones. It’s called The Uninvited Guests, and it would make a wonderful stage play. The plot unfolds over the course of a single day and night at a great house in the English countryside, circa 1912. The eldest daughter of the house, Emerald, is having a birthday, and her childhood friends are coming to celebrate. Her brother Clovis is lounging about, their mother Charlotte is avoiding everyone, the housekeeper Florence is preparing a great feast, and the youngest child Imogen, unsupervised, has decided to bring the pony out of the stables and up into her bedroom.
Whilst everything is set for a comedy of errors, the book takes an increasingly sinister turn with the arrival of the guests, Patience and Ernest. They bring news of a train crash nearby – and of displaced passengers on their way to shelter at the great house during the night. (Naturally, a terrible storm is brewing.) Everyone is thrown into a tizzy as the uninvited guests – third-class passengers, from the looks of them – arrive and are ushered into the morning room and shut away. The birthday dinner is bravely begun, but eventually the uninvited guests must be fed, and then where on earth will they all sleep?
Clearly there is something not quite right about these passengers, as they seem to be multiplying in number at an alarming rate. And then there is their leader, a Mr. Charlie Traversham-Beecher, first class, who invades the birthday dinner and takes over all proceedings. He claims to know the lady of the house from long ago – and oh, he has a very cruel party game he’d like them all to play.
You’ll be spooked by the uninvited guests and the way they eventually depart the great house, but you’ll also chuckle, watch the characters fall in love, and learn – if ever you should need to know – how to get a pony to go down the stairs.