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.
Edward Swift Departs
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 with the narrow wheels of a speeding gig, out of which he had fallen on the driveway of his then home in County Wicklow. Having always faced the window and wide view, now Charlotte sat on Edward's left, and faced him.
Her eldest children, Emerald and Clovis, aged nineteen and twenty respectively, but for whom the word 'children' is not inaccurate at the point at which we discover them, did not like this new arrangement. Nor did they like or approve of Edward Swift; single arm notwithstanding, they found he did not fit.
Clovis Torrington balanced the pearl-handled butter...
Jones pulls readers into the drawing-room with what appears at first to be a classic English country-house tale, but winds up becoming something quite a bit darker, and thoroughly unexpected. Using the country house novel as a commentary on social class is nothing new - what's surprising and innovative about this one is the particularly daring and delightful ways in which Jones does so. This many-sided novel, which constantly confounds and even dashes expectations, is not for everyone; but for those who like their reading with a dash of surprise and a soupcon of satire, The Uninvited Guests will be very welcome indeed.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (896 words).
Readers and viewers seem endlessly fascinated by the English country-house genre. From classic and award-winning novels such as The Remains of the Day,
Howards End, or Mansfield Park, to the mysteries of Agatha Christie and P.D. James, to television epics such as Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey, they offer both the writer and the reader a concentrated glimpse into a rarefied social milieu, one that often prompts both romantic intensity and social commentary. Although many of these works are historical in nature, they nevertheless seem relevant to contemporary society, especially when (as in The Uninvited Guests) the author obliquely or explicitly comments on historical behavior and attitudes through a modern lens.
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