One late spring evening in 1912, in the kitchens at Sterne, preparations begin for an elegant supper party in honor of Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday. But only a few miles away, a dreadful accident propels a crowd of mysterious and not altogether savory 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 parlor 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 wit and opulence.
I was delightfully deceived by The Uninvited Guests, though I guess that it's more precise to say that I somehow managed to deceived myself while reading the description & early reviews for this new novel by Sadie Jones.
For some reason the equation that I originally came up with was:
Edwardian England + Mansion + Dead First Spouse + Party + Paranormal + Dodgy Housekeeper = Rebecca the classic novel by Daphne du Maurier.
Therefore, I was expecting to proceed at a rather leisurely pace wandering dream-like through the story from "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" to "And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind of the sea". Instead I ended up blasting through this page-turner, anxious to see how things developed & surprised that the characters weren't behaving at all as I assumed they would.
Florence Trieves, the housekeeper, is no evil Mrs Danvers though she has quirks and secrets enough. Charlotte Torrington, the matriarch, is certainly not "to the manor born" and her daughter Emerald may or may not be as beautiful inside as she is out. Smudge, the youngest Torrington child, is free-spirit whose safety I fear for while Charlie Traversham-Beechers, party crasher extraordinaire, should never have been let into the house in the first place.
Shades of Rebecca, Maxim de Winter or the second Mrs de Winter are nowhere to be found but as with Rebecca this book does have a strangeness & charm unique to itself.
Published on May 1, 2012 (exactly 100 years after the story ends, how cool is that!), it's apparent that some special May Day magic has found its way onto the pages of The Uninvited Guests. I'm looking forward to reading it again, sometime in the not-too-distant future, at which time I will be able to slow down and fully savour the wonderful prose of Sadie Jones.
For those of you that have already read The Uninvited Guests what did you think of it? Was it what you expected? Did you enjoy it? Were you also thinking it was going to be more of a gothic romance?
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