Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

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 code are uprooted and desire daringly trumps propriety – and all is alight with Edwardian wit and opulence.

I was a little nervous when I started reading this book. I was about 30 pages in and was just plain bored. It takes a lot for me to not finish a book I start reading, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind the more I forced myself to keep turning the pages. That being said, once I hit the second chapter (page 44) things started to look up. I am really glad I stuck with it, because I ended up really enjoying this book.

The Torrington family, who live in the Sterne, are forced to take on passengers from a dreadful train crash a few miles from their residence. The house is thrown into chaos while they still try to put together the birthday dinner for Emerald, as well as try to decipher how to handle the uninvited guests. They manage to corral the guests into one room in hopes they will stay put until the Railway sends for them. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. At all.

I feel like I really can’t say a lot without giving away too much, so I’ll try to be as vague as I can but still hopefully give away enough to encourage you to read this book. First of all, I fell in love with Imogen, or as everyone calls her, Smudge. I had a smile on my face constantly while I was reading any part of the book that involved that little girl. When I read the synopsis for the book and it mentioned her Great Undertaking, never in a million years would I have guessed what that actually meant. It is definitely out there, but it made my heart smile :)

Throughout the plot, Emerald continues to take notice that the number of passengers from the train seems to grow, which didn’t really make a lot of sense to me at first. The wheels finally started turning when Charlotte finds Charlie Traversham-Beechers in her room, when she’s fairly positive she locked her bedroom door. I had to go back and re-read certain parts because I’m not going to lie; I got a little bit confused! It wasn’t until the end when they confirmed my suspicions, and it all finally made sense.

The relationships were well written, albeit a little bit predictable. The character of Charlie Traversham-Beechers keeps you on your toes, and the game of Hinds and Hounds that he forced them to play after dinner made me realize that there just might be something off about this man. It made my heart ache a little bit while I was reading that part, especially for two particular characters. (Hey…I’m a girl and I’m allowed to get too emotional over character situations in books!)

Overall, I thought it was a quirky, bizarre, entertaining, quick read. I actually finished the book in one day, although it is only about 260 pages. If you decide to read the book and find the beginning a little brutal, I strongly urge you to power through it. I promise it gets much, much better. 

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