Book Review — The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Hey, Scribelings! Suze here. So glad you could join us today! First things first: Sister Scribe Casey Wyatt’s latest book, The Undead Space Initiative, releases today from Pink Petal Books. This is a genre-busting story that you won’t be able to put down. Hot paranormal sex on a cold planet–don’t miss it!

So let me tell you about another book I just finished reading. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones.  Don’t you just love the cover? Well I adored this book.  Check out the first line:

Since her marriage to Edward Swift, three years after the sudden death of her first husband Horace Torrington, Charlotte had changed her position at the breakfast table in order to accommodate her new husband’s needs: specifically, aiding him in the spreading of toast and cutting of meat, owing to his having suffered the loss of his left arm at the age of twenty-three in an unfortunate encounter wth the narrow wheels of a speeding gig, out of which he had fallen on the driveway of his home in County Wicklow.

Yes, that is one long sentence, and it breaks pretty much every rule we’ve ever been taught about hooking the reader and not inserting any backstory.

But Suze, you say. At least I know what the story’s going to be about. It has a Downtown Abbey feel about it. Poor Charlotte! Changing her position at the breakfast table is a metaphor for her life–she never puts herself first but always sees to the needs of others. She’s longing to express herself, on her own terms. Perhaps by the end of the book, she’ll take up painting, or writing, or find herself a young lover to fulfill her physical needs.  Did any of these things come to mind for you?

Well, I’m here to tell you that you’d be dead wrong, on all counts.

The Uninvited Guests is the story of Charlotte, her children Emerald, Clovis, and Imogen (Smudge) Torrington, and the way they spend the 24 hours of Emerald’s 20th birthday. The one-armed Edward Swift departs for town to try to borrow enough money to keep Sterne, the Torrington’s rambling old house, operating. Meanwhile, preparations are afoot for Emerald’s birthday dinner, to which her mother has invited John, a rich suitor (who could of course save them financially if Emerald can only decide to like him), as well as Emerald and Clovis’s childhood friends, Patience and Ernest.

Awful news arrives in the form of a telephone call. There’s been a train derailment nearby, and Sterne is the closest place where the traumatized passengers can be sheltered until the railway people can come and collect them up and send them on their way. The passengers begin to arrive and are herded into the morning room, while the cook and her assistant labor to complete the multicourse birthday dinner.

One of the passengers stands out from the crowd: Charlie Traversham-Beechers, a jovial, forceful gentleman who manages to wrangle an invitation to the birthday party. Charlotte and the housekeeper, Mrs. Trieves, take one look at him and gasp in horror: Clearly Charlie and Charlotte have a past, but she doesn’t want her children to know about it so she allows him to stay.

Once Charlie shows up, all hell breaks loose and the pacing never lets up. There’s a particularly awful parlor game which brings out the absolute worst in everyone. I can’t say much more because I really, truly do not want to spoil the surprises in this story for you.

Will Charlie ruin Charlotte by revealing their history? Will Smudge succeed in her Great Undertaking? Will Emerald save Sterne by accepting the wealthy John Buchanan? Who will lose her/his virginity with a particularly unlikely character?

By the end, everything is neatly wrapped up — some might say too neatly, but it absolutely suits the story, which would make a wonderful play. I will be first in line for tickets if someone decides to produce it.

What about you? Have you read anything that surprised you lately?

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5 thoughts on “Book Review — The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones”

  1. Thanks for the shout out Suze! And this books sounds incredibly fun! I read a lot of books that surprise me. The most recent was Steven Saylor’s Seven Wonders. I don’t usually like short stories, but they were all connected and worked well together. If you’ve never read his books, they take place in ancient Rome (around the time the republic falls) and the main character is Gordianus. He’s a finder – basically a private detective. I’ve read all the books in the series. Seven Wonders goes back to when Gordianus was a young man. The reason I was surprised is that the author managed to tell seven fresh stories about a well established character all while surrounded by the ancient world. A great read (and the library has it!).

  2. I actually liked the long opening line. I followed it with no problems, and found it fun to read. :) Breaking the rules sometime the way to go…if it’s done right.

  3. Oh, and as for reading anything that surprised me lately…I just want to read! Anything at this point. I’m looking forward to “someday” when I can read again.

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