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 codes are uprooted and desire daringly trumps propriety—and all is alight with Edwardian wit and opulence. (from amazon.com)
I'll admit to being initially drawn to The Uninvited Guests by the cover. Shallow, I know, but there you have it. When positive reviews began appearing around the blogosphere, I added my name to the library hold list and reached the top in just a few weeks. At home, I was delighted to discover the novel has gorgeous endpapers, too. This is a very visually appealing book!
The Edwardian Era setting helped satisfy my Downton Abbey withdrawal syndrome, and I immediately enjoyed the author's use of language - so smart and witty. Several laugh-out-loud moments had my family raising eyebrows and glancing in my direction. The novel was a quick read and I finished the final half in a single afternoon, an unusual occurrence for me.
My verdict? Enjoyable overall, yet it fell short of my expectations. The story seemed a little flat and the macabre plot elements just seemed weird. I was expecting more to be made of Smudge's drawings, especially since they adorn the endpapers. The characters, in general, weren't especially likable and I never really cared about any of them.
I found myself thinking about the book for several days after finishing. My appreciation may have increased slightly, yet I still can't muster more than a 'good' rating.
Bottom line: A good book, but ultimately disappointing... probably due to my heightened expectations.