The Uninvited Guests

The Uninvited Guests

Book - 2012
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All their preparations had been in vain. Emerald''s birthday celebrations had begun in confusion and disarray. She cast about for something sensible to say, something that would reassure her mother and friends that an hospitable timetable would be re-established, and was about to suggest the library, and tea, when she halted, arrested in movement like a musical statue.
She was obeying a prompt, an instinct left over, perhaps, from an earlier time; the instinct that stops a mouse in its short-sighted tracks when a cat is watching it from a chair; that makes a dog lying by the fire tremble, and whimper, when there is no one near to see.
And as she stopped, there came, of a sudden, a hard gust of wind behind her, striking her through her dress, forcefully, blowing all thoughts of convention from her mind. The heavy front door was closed, but the chill struck Emerald''s back, finding its way through the jamb and hinges - through the solid wood itself, it seemed, as a cold wave will sometimes catch one as one leaves the sea and knock the breath from the body.
- from The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

It is the last day of April in 1912, and the country estate of Sterne is humming with preparations for an intimate dinner party. Today Emerald Torrington turns 20. The members of the household - and their guests, now en route - have no idea that over the course of this single day and night, all their lives will be turned upside down, for better or for worse.
Charlotte Torrington is Emerald''s mother. A great beauty, she was widowed years ago by her businessman-turned-gentleman-farmer husband. She has recently remarried, to the steady and loving Edward Swift. Despite his affable nature, Edward is fiercely resented by Emerald and her brother Clovis, a dissolute 19 year old whose days are largely spent moping and plotting. The youngest family member is Charlotte''s youngest daughter, Imogen, known as Smudge. A frail, faerie-like wild child, she flits through house and field - and even upon high rooftops - generally unsupervised.
Despite their apparent comfort, the family lives well beyond its means. Edward has been dispatched to Manchester to borrow money from a lender of dubious morals. The family employs a handful of servants to keep the household in minimal working order: there are the maids Pearl and Myrtle, the groom Robert, and Stanley the stable boy. Heading up the servants is the housekeeper, Florence Trieves, a widowed acquaintance from Charlotte''s youth. Like Charlotte, Florence was once a great beauty, but today is a grim crow-like figure garbed in black. She is furiously making preparations for tonight''s menu, to include such delicacies as calf''s head soup and stewed eel.
The family has invited only their most intimate friends to join them for the evening''s celebration. They are expecting Emerald''s dearest friend, the sweet Patience Sutton, who will be accompanied by her brother Ernest, an interning physician. Upon their arrival Emerald discovers that Edward has matured rather pleasingly, no longer the gawky teenager with whom she once rambled the grounds of Sterne during long-ago summers. A late invitation has also been extended to their neighbour, the rich and respectable John Buchanan, who has been perplexing the lovely Emerald of late with his hot-and-cold attentions.
But with the arrival of their guests comes distressing news: A train has derailed, and its survivors - most of whom were travelling third class - are to be received at Sterne. As the owners of the only estate in the vicinity, it is the Torringtons'' duty to accept this responsibility, no matter the disruption to their dinner plans. With Charlotte more preoccupied with naps and arranging her hair, and Clovis of no help at the best of times, Emerald must put aside her confusing feelings about the two men now vying for her attention, and set about preparing for whatever is to come.
But as the motley crowd of survivors is stowed away in the morning room, their cries of hunger and discomfort briefly assuaged by tea, Clovis becomes entranced by their self-appointed leader, the unnerving and mercurial Charlie Traversham-Beechers. Clovis invites this brash fellow to join their dinner party, and Emerald is soon to learn that there can be no adequate preparation for the strangeness of the evening that is to unfold.
Contemporary readers will find much to relish in this brilliant pastiche of the greats of Victorian and Edwardian literature. Deftly composed with liberal sprinklings of acerbic wit, finely rendered pathos, and spine-tingling horror, The Uninvited Guests is a once-again triumphant work by a new and celebrated author.

Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, c2012.
ISBN: 9780307402530
Branch Call Number: JONES
Characteristics: 262 p. ; 21 cm.


From Library Staff

A 19th century birthday party is inconveniently interrupted when a group of survivors from a dreadful train accident descend upon the household - mayhem abounds. If you liked Downton Abbey - try this!
Recommended by Pat.

From the critics

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Mar 11, 2018

I very much liked several of Sadie Jones' other novels, but this one seemed like she was trying too hard to write a period piece, and it wasn't working. Stopped reading after awhile.

Nov 04, 2017

I really enjoyed this book. The author writes deftly and her humour ranges from subtle and understated wit to laugh-out-loud goofiness. Sadie Jones has a ear for class differences in dialect and an eye for the costumes and decor of an English country house. The Edwardian period in which the story is set really came alive for me. Each character is unique and very humanly quirky and flawed. Though the ending was a bit over the top, it was still very satisfying. At just over 230-some pages, it felt as if not a word was wasted in the telling of this delightful tale.

Aug 29, 2017

What a snore. I should of just stuck to Masterpiece Mystery on PBS.

Aug 11, 2017

I loved this book. I loved Jones' writing style, her language, her use of words -- I literally was jubilant while reading, delighted by the multifaceted bounce of her narrative and dialogue. The text of this novel had personality, was a character in this story, and the tale it offered captured me from the first line.

To me, the characters were quite flawed but so human, I felt rather tenderly toward them, even Charlotte (who I think is the most despicable, mostly for her treatment of her children). This is a family raised in Victorian mores and ideals, living in an Edwardian society of flashy beauty and changing values, formerly affluent but now dependent on the possibility of a loan to keep them afloat. When I closed the book, I could say I loved every single character in this novel -- every one. They were real, anchored solidly by Jones' marvelous turn-of-phrase (the dialogue! the descriptive passages!) and given flight by the ludicrous and chilling plot. There's a madcap pace to the end of the novel that strained credulity (and shockingly, it wasn't the supernatural elements!) but I loved it for pushing me past my expectations.

Part domestic drama, part class exploration, part spoof on English country life, The Uninvited Guests is a fascinating, creepy, and moving look at obligation, motivation, and loyalty. Gushingly recommended.

Jun 15, 2017

book was too dark and unbelievable. It looked like she was trying to channel Downton Abbey without the levity. Stopped a third of the way through, so actually not officially "completed".

CRRL_VirginiaJ Jun 08, 2017

A quietly chilling take on Edwardian society. Set in the same time-frame as the early episodes of Downton Abbey, an aristocratic family fallen on hard times has unexpected visitors.

orange_turtle_200 Jul 25, 2014

I loved this book because it showed how people of a different class think different of everyone else that isn't in their class. But throughout the book they all find a way to come together. I loved the atmosphere and setting of it it did feel like a downton abbey related book

May 26, 2014

An Edwardian ghost story, improbable, inconsistent, fun and quite well done.

Aug 27, 2013

The Uninvited Guests was a delightfully surprising read. It's set in Edwardian England, amid a family whose finances are in dire straits. Each member of this ensemble is fully fleshed out, both utterly believable and beautifully flawed. I wasn't sure what to make of it, at first, but I think I can solidly say it's an historical fiction.

It's also, of course, a gothic mystery. I found myself very fond of Emerald, Florence, and Smudge. It was a relatively quick read, and fun. Fans of Downton Abbey will like it, I think- it isn't all upstairs vs downstairs (although there is some of that), but it's humorous in language, involves a heavy dose of magical realism, and there's some intrigue.

Jul 26, 2013

I read this book for my book club. I felt it started out well but I lost interest midway through. 5 out of 6 book club members gave it a thumbs down.

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