The Uninvited Guests

by Sadie Jones

A really good book, and a satisfying read.  I picked this up on a whim from the library, popping in there after a visit to the doctor – my first outing since being stricken with ‘flu.  Laid up for the best part of two weeks, I have been doing a lot of reading, but not all of it satisfying.  Perhaps because I am already feeling better and more ready to get my teeth into a good book, but perhaps (more likely) because it is such a good book, I raced through this while still savouring every word.

A review of another of Jones’ books suggested that were she male, she would be up there with the Ian McEwans and Julian Barnes’ of literary fame.  This seems a bit of a back-handed compliment to me.  Her work is reminiscent of these authors, and surely it deserves to be rated alongside their output irrespective of gender.  Perhaps this was the point the reviewer was trying to make – but in doing so, he drew attention to what is surely an irrelevant distinction.

The story: the Torrington family is living in financially constrained circumstances in a large country house they can’t really afford.  While Edward Swift, the head of the household, who is also the unpopular stepfather of two grown-up children and one younger child from Charlotte’s first marriage, is away, some invited guests arrive at the same time as a group of people apparently sent to the house by ‘The Railway’ after a train crash.  The family is given to understand that the ever-increasing group of people, whom they treat rather shabbily, consists of survivors of the accident, and that they will be moved on my The Railway in due course.

The reader gradually becomes aware that the ‘survivors’ may not actually be what they seem.  And we learn that some members of the family are perhaps also not what they seem.  Nevertheless, they are all rather likeable characters, and everything plays itself out to a satisfyingly happy (if improbable) ending.

I can’t wait to read more by this author.  Great stuff!