December 06, 2012
Book Review The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
A rich family in a large English country house prepare for a birthday celebration for the daughter of the house, Emerald. Sadie Jones gradually reveals the family's uncertainties and passions. They are not Old County but newly arrived and their grip on the house, which they all love in varying ways, is under threat. A slightly otherworldly collection of visitors arrives, including a gaggle of third class passengers from a local train wreck, like a Greek chorus, and a strange and mesmerizing figure in Charlie Traversham-Beechers. Emerald goes to greet them…
"And as she stopped, there came, of a sudden, a hard gust of wind behind her, striking her through her dress, forcefully blowing all thoughts of convention from her mind. The heavy front door was closed, but the chill struck Emerald's back, finding its way through the jamb and hinges – through the solid wood itself, it seemed, as a cold wave will sometime catch one as one leaves the sea and knock the breath from one's body."
These uninvited guests completely transform the expected weekend and provide a cathartic turning point for future family relations. I particularly liked Imogen, known as Smudge, the youngest daughter, much younger than her brother and sister, and her solution to getting realism into her animal portraits on the wall of her upstairs bedroom. The older children undergo several shocks as they grow to understand some of the adult figures around them and take some tentative steps towards their own futures. They learn that it takes a crisis to understand how strong family bonds can be.