Book Review: The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The Uninvited Guests
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary:   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.

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 read this because I was in need of a Downton Abby-esque fix until the program returns later this year. This did the job & also had an unexpected dash of Twilight Zone making me enjoy it just a little more.

Emerald Torrington is to celebrate her twentieth birthday with a couple close friends & her family but one interruption after another distract. Clovis, her brother, is almost wholly unhelpful & unbearable. Smudge (Imogen), her little sister, is hatching an epic plan & Charlotte, her mother, is infuriatingly deliberately vague & vacant. Charlotte has her own little disaster as it turns out. Her social standing is on the brink & the family being a bit cash poor is straining that even more. Her second husband, Edward, has left to go seek a loan to make things right to Charlotte's mind, so he's absent for much of this story. Toss in Emerald's friends, Patience & Ernest Sutton & longtime family friend, John & the party is rounded out.

The push-pull between manners & duty begin when the nearby train derails & the survivors of the event show up at the house. There were moments when I wanted to throttle Charlotte & Clovis for their complete lack of tact. For all the pomp & circumstance of manners & civility, they were often rudest of all. Charlotte & Patience were much better but far from perfect in the empathy department. It was understandable given who they were but it was just trying to have the passengers corralled into a room (at first without even tea) & Mrs. Trieves & Florence trying to attend to them & still keep on with all of the preparations for Emerald's birthday dinner. I mean, press on & all but they were acting like nothing should slow down or take a back seat in importance because the plan had already been set. Not the most agile group here. It was all the more entertaining to have as the backdrop to all the other dramas, dearest Smudge (I kind of adored this little girl) embarking on her big (& ultimately disastrous but hilarious) plan with Lady, the pony.

One more uninvited guest shows up & this is where the story takes quite an interesting turn. Charlie. Like Emerald & Smudge, he put me off from the beginning. I was half worried he was some crazed murderer or grifter who was going to take advantage of the family since Robert was away & no butlers or footmen were in the house. I needn't have worried though, it turned out he was something else entirely. And sadly for Charlotte the renewed acquaintance was not to be a happy one. His addition to the story was really one of the things I liked best & probably my favorite part of the book was when he goads everyone into a game of Hinds & Hounds. It was vicious & really made everyone look terrible (with the exception of Ernest). I never completely forgave Emerald, her participation & this made a future development a hard pill to swallow. Charlotte and Clovis became completely irredeemable for me. I loved those as developments in character.

In the end, the storm clears, the passengers have mysteriously gone, a new day begins & there's love in the air (contrived as hell & completely unexplainable given events). I had a bit of trouble with Edward returning with the bequest that saves the house because it just felt tacked on & didn't really have an explanation that made sense. These instances made the ending feel abrupt & like they were struck off a checklist, not in the least authentic. Still, in the end, I did enjoy reading this & at some point during the dinner it became "unputdownable". It was entertaining & I would read another by Sadie Jones.

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