The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
For the last year or so, I’ve been hearing about how great the TV show Downton Abbey is, and that I needed to watch it. While flipping through Netflix one day, I came across the first season and proceeded to watch the entire thing in one sitting—it was that good! Needless to say, that show got me started on all things early 20th century, as well as all things British (especially if it involves a manor of some kind). When I read the blurb on the back of The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones, I knew it would be the perfect book to satisfy my cravings!
The entire book takes place in the course of one day, kicking off with Edward Swift, the second husband to Charlotte and stepfather to Clovis, Emerald, and Smudge, leaving to try and procure a loan to save their manor, Sterne. Charlotte’s first husband, Horace Torrington, died with their estate being heavily in debt, and the family is on the brink of losing everything.
This day also happens to be Emerald’s birthday, and they’re awaiting the arrival of her dear friend Patience, as well as her brother, Ernest. When Clovis goes to the train station to pick them up, he’s told of a terrible train accident, and survivors are sent to Sterne to await further instruction. The survivors are put away in a room, and pretty much forgotten about while the “real guests” go about having their dinner party. However, when a survivor from the first class of the train, who happens to know Charlotte, decides to party crash, the evening takes a turn.
I don’t want to give anything away about the climax of the plot, but I will say the ending took a turn I didn’t see coming, almost branching into The Twilight Zone.
Pretty early into the novel, I began to seriously dislike Clovis—I found him to be a whiny, spoiled child who doesn’t appreciate anything Edward is doing for his inherited family and should be promptly kicked out of the house. My opinion of him never changed. I also started out disliking Charlotte and Emerald, but for some reason, I found myself being more sympathetic toward Emerald as the novel progressed. I initially wondered why Jones would create such unlikeable people for her main characters, but after looking at the novel as the social satire it’s supposed to be, I can see why they were on the extreme end of the behavior spectrum.
While Downton Abbey and The Uninvited Guests have very little in common, with the exception of taking place in 1912 and on an English countryside manor, their audiences are still very similar. Readers who enjoy intricate plot twists, stories of class structure, or novels set in the early 1900s, will find The Uninvited Guests the perfect choice.
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