“The opening pages read like an episode of Downton Abbey…But Jones has something more uncanny in mind, and when the party is interrupted by survivors of a nearby train wreck, the comedy of manners turns downright surreal…Jones’s effervescent writing keeps the course steady-even as her characters shed their civilized veneers.” — Ellen Shapiro, People magazine (four star review)
A grand old manor house deep in the English countryside will open its doors to reveal the story of an unexpectedly dramatic day in the life of one eccentric, rather dysfunctional, and entirely unforgettable family. Set in the early years of the twentieth century, award-winning author Sadie Jones’s The Uninvited Guests is, in the words of Jacqueline Winspear, the New York Times bestselling author of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries A Lesson in Secrets and Elegy for Eddie, “a sinister tragi-comedy of errors, in which the dark underbelly of human nature is revealed in true Shakespearean fashion.”
Sterne, the English country house at the center of this remarkable dark comedy, is home to the Torringtons mother Charlotte, a widow now married to Edward Swift; children Emerald, Clovis, and "Smudge"; and an assortment of faithful staff. Set sometime in the early part of the 20th century, somewhere in the north of England (the ambiguity is telling), the novel takes place over a single day, April 30. A celebration is underway for Emerald's 20th birthday, and what appears to be a Wodehouseian comedy with a touch of Dodie Smith is derailed when a local train jumps its track, soon filling Sterne with stranded, shocked passengers. The "uninvited guests" are decidedly lower class and deliberately indistinct, but for one notable exception: Charlie Traversham-Beechers, who seems to know a good deal about the family, particularly Charlotte. Jones's (Small Wars) characters are delightfully eccentric, the wit delightfully droll, and the prose simply delightful. But for all its charm, this is a serious book; it's no coincidence that the new day dawning at its close is May Day, or International Workers' Day, though Jones's theme is less class warfare than the seemingly absolute divide between the classes.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Not quite what I was expecting based on the premise set to build this story. It somehow felt flat, predictable, and, by the end, quite boring. It has it's moments of charm and literary crafty design, but the absurdist nature of it all just hindered what could possibly had been an excellent read.
What a marvelous story!
I can't be specific because I don't want to give anything away, but it was a wonderful weekend at Sterne, and I feel lucky to have been part of it!