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The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
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The Uninvited Guests (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Sadie Jones

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5185119,555 (3.18)61
Member:vancouverdeb
Title:The Uninvited Guests
Authors:Sadie Jones
Info:Knopf Canada (2012), Paperback, 272 pages
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The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (2012)

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The writing is light, delightful, witty, and perceptive from the first page of this comedy of manners. Which is a good thing because it carries it through much of the first third of the book which drags somewhat as the high expectations build but never reach fruition. But then the mock turtle soup breaks, spills all over the floor, and inaugurates a new and even more enthralling phase of the book.

The Unwanted Guests is set in England in 1912 and is an upstair-downstairs comedy, although the downstairs is somewhat reduced by the financial state of the family. It takes place in a 24-hour period that is meant to be a birthday party, and potential betrothal, for the daughter but goes badly awry when the third class passengers, plus one ostensible first class passenger, from a nearby train wreck show up for shelter. The increasingly noisy, ungrateful and apparently ever multiplying guests eat their way through everything as they spread around the house.

Against this backdrop, it is a Shakespeare-esque story in which the normal rules are suspended for a night, roles are reversed, unlikely romances form, discoveries are made, but all is restored by the daylight.

Overall, The Unwanted Guests is well-executed, unique, and mostly an enjoyable read--and it is even more enjoyable in retrospect. ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
This started out with a lot of promise, but ended up disappointing me. ( )
  librarymary09 | May 24, 2014 |
A truly remarkable and completely unique book. Veers from comedy through to horror and back to farce in a effortless manner. I have always admired an author who can produce something which no one else has thought of,and Sadie Jones has certainly done it with 'The Uninvited Guests'.
The inhabitants of the grand,but shabby house of Sterne,prepare for Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday party. News comes that the survivors of a nearby train crash are about to arrive at the house for shelter and sustenance. Sterne is about to be turned upside down with the arrival of the Uninvited Guests.
Brilliant ! ( )
  devenish | May 9, 2014 |
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. Emerald & 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 Edward 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. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
This started out really well and at about 2/3rds distance just completely went off the rails and ended in, for me, a disappointing mess.
Set in a well to do house, pre-WW1, that's clearly fallen on bad times, it takes place on Emerald's 20th birthday. Her step father is off on business, trying to save them from losing the house while she has guests over for a dinner party. So there's a fair amount of to-do, what with the guests arriving and one of the housemaids being off ill. There's also a fair amount of family angst going in, with Emerald's brother Clovis being a typical bothersome brother and their younger sister Imogen (Smudge) who seems to be poorly. Clovis is sent to the station to collect patience & her brother Ernest from the station, only they end up being gone a long time, returning with the nes that there's been a train accident on the branchline and that the railway need to send the passengers up to the house to shelter. Emerald manages to be the level headed mature one, while her mother seems to shrink from the passengers and is quite cruel and rather snobbish.
Then a further guests appears and the front door and promptly invites himself to dinner, claiming acquaintance with Charlotte (the mother). He is clearly a bounder and a cad, but is older and so manages to overwhelm by sheer force of personality the other males at the dinner party.
things get increasingly out of hand, with the number of stranded passengers seeming to increase and become more and more demanding and unruly. All the while, Smudge embarks on her great undertaking (which is just brilliantly funny and I really won't give that away).
And it's somewhere here that it goes wrong for me. Emerald & the younger members of the party come good and rally round to aid the passengers, while Charlotte goes all self centered and shuts herself away. Then the caddish passenger who's infiltrated the party introduces a game that turns really quite nasty, resulting in revelations about Charlotte's youth that do not reflect well on her.
And then the bombshell hits (spoiler time) and the guests is revealed as a ghost who's died in the train accident, only his proximity and strong passions for Charlotte cause him to materialise and drags the other dead souls with him. And so it limps on to the end becoming ever more far fetched, and the ending is completely unsatisfactorily resolved. So Its 4 stars for the first 2/3rds but the final section drops that score to a merely Ok 2 because I was so disappointed in it. If it had been sustained it would have been a stonking good book. ( )
  Helenliz | Nov 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
How to describe The Uninvited Guests? Well, that's part of the fun. Sadie Jones' outstanding new novel starts out by offering mischievous echoes of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs -- tempered, however, by a somewhat unsentimental vision of a decaying Edwardian England foolishly complacent in its sense of privilege and entitlement. But by the end, we have landed somewhere else: into a surrealistic universe reminiscent of filmmaker Luis Bunuel at his most unsettling. Also, let it be noted, into an eerily convincing ghost story...Further evidence that Sadie Jones is a stunningly original writer. The Uninvited Guests is her best book yet.
 
Downton Abbey meets The Others, anyone?..The result is a playful and rollicking tale, with writing that crackles with originality and wit. The supernatural element is not truly frightening and never threatens to dominate proceedings; it instead acts as a conduit for the main characters' journeys.
 
Full marks to them for publishing it in a way that accurately reflects its complexities. All the same, some of Sadie Jones's readers are likely to be a little bewildered....The novel is a ghost story, but disappointingly the ghosts are sad or sinister rather than scary...Stylish, witty and inventive it may be, but The Uninvited Guests is perhaps too much about the writer at play to satisfy Sadie Jones's hungry fans.
 
The Woman in Black meets Downton Abbey in this happy marriage of ghost story and country house dramaSadie Jones's highly entertaining third novel seems perfectly conceived to appeal to two current popular tastes – our fascination with the Edwardian country house and the revival of the English ghost story. The Uninvited Guests marks a stylistic departure for Jones too – on the surface the tone is lighter and more comic than her two previous novels...ones shows that she can turn her talent for storytelling to a more stylised form with a light and playful touch, and without compromising her sharp insights into the human heart.
 
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Epigraph
Their table was a board to tempt even ghosts
to pass the Styx for more substantial feasts.

Don Juan, Lord Byron
Dedication
For
Fred, Tabitha, Daisy
with love
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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 accomodate 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.
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Book description
A party for Emerald Torrington's twentieth birthday is being prepared when an accident takes place and uninvited guests seek shelter at the falling apart manor.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062116509, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:28 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"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."--Dust jacket.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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