The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones, 259 pages
review copy from Random House Canada, released April 17, 2012 in Canada
How would this book be classified? The feel, the tone, that I got was a little farcical - picture Arsenic and Old Lace? That's one of my favorite movies, by the way, so clearly it's a compliment. I'm giving the impression now that it is funny or comical, but it isn't at all. The word I've seen used to describe this is witty, which can work here. At the same time, the reader, and some of the characters, are never really sure what is going on, what is real or not. Have I completely confused you?
Set in the early 1900s, Edwardian age, a family is trying to save their house. Charlotte Torrington Swift, newly married to Charles Swift, and mother of three Emerald, Clovis and Smudge. The whole of the story takes place on an evening as Charles has left to go to Manchester to try to secure a loan. Emerald is having a birthday dinner with some family friends and a neighbour. Before the dinner can begin, a train derails on a nearby line, and some of the survivors are shunted to Sterne, the house the children grew up in. One of the survivors appears to be known to Charlotte.
The line between cars and horses, telephones but no electricity, upper and lower class, childhood and adulthood, appearances and reality continually blur throughout the book, in that wonderful time period of early 1900s. The fun in the book, beside the Great Adventure of Smudge, is not really knowing what and who everyone is, so I'm not saying any more.
Smudge wondered if Mr Darwin had ever noted that his precious evolution had betrayed the horse rather meanly, in not allowing them to develop a tiptoe along with a walk, trot and canter. The cowardly grass-eating things might have been able to sneak past predators and not had to run away so much. p93
This is my most enjoyable read from Sadie Jones, following great reads like The Outcast, and Small Wars. This one is a little more fun, and a little more weird than the other two.
also reviewed: bookfool at bookfoolery; katherine at a girl walks into a bookstore;