It is Emerald’s birthday and she has invited a few select guests to her gathering at Sterne, the family home. Her brother Clovis, irritating and rather self centred, her younger much over looked sister Imogen known to all as ‘Smudge’ and their mother Charlotte. A woman caught up in the grief of something in the past, and although she has seemingly got over the death of her first husband and the children’s father Horace Torrington which enabled them to live in Sterne, she soon married Edward Swift who actually within the first pages of the book makes a swift departure out of Sterne – he is off to save it.
So the party will go on without him.
But the family do not envisage having to become a rescue centre for a great many more people who rather taint Emeralds birthday.
When Emerald’s other guests arrive, the rather vacuous Patience Sutton and her brother Ernest, they tell of a train crash and within minutes a huddled group are walking towards Sterne to seek refuge. Directed by someone at the railway.
So the planned dinner takes on a new twist, as the food prepared is distributed rather differently that imagined by Florence Trieves, family cook and retainer. Guests are moved from room to room, filling spaces physically and becoming part of the atmosphere.
One of the guests breaks away and infiltrates the family dinner, which with all the Britishness of a Country House Dinner carries on, unfazed by the goings on in the rest of the house. This man turns out to know something about everyone and a dangerous game is played.
Meanwhile, Smudge rather forgotten in parts has her own game in fact this is her ‘Great Undertaking’ and not something I guessed at all.
And so the night draws to a close, the uninvited guests are restless; wanting to sleep. The invited guests are restless from their game and suddenly look charitably upon those uninvited and do everything to help. Whilst the guest that was not planned to turn at Sterne, (only Smudge knew) brings a diversion and then a conclusion.
And so a rather eccentric book ends. Neatly tying everything up.
This book for me has resonant of Wodehouse, with the language and the quirky behaviour of people when forced into situations. Although I recognise this setting is some ten years earlier of Bertie Wooster. If you have ever read An Inspector Calls then you will recognise something familiar. The wonderful Smudge to me was familiar, she could have been the delightful Flavia de Luce some forty years earlier and the ‘Great Undertaking’ was rather an unexpected twist of events.
The book takes a while to get going, and you have to stick with it, it has some rather funny witty moments, some rather sad pathos within the writing, and an atmosphere all of its own. Some of the characters could do with more development and background would have perhaps made it a more rounded novel. It is not a bad book just a very different book from what you were probably expecting.
If you have read Sadie Jones previous novels then this will surprise you no end. It is nothing like them at all.
If you have never read her novels before then start with this one, because when you read her previous two they will surprise you as well.
Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book.
It must be a great risk for any author to completely change direction with style and subject matter. I went back and looked at my review of her last book, Small Wars and noticed that I comment how different that book is from her debut novel The Outcast which was an excellent book. Sadie Jones has done it again with this book. I wonder does an author have all these ideas of books and wants to write them without becoming well known for one particular genre? Or do they try hard to stick to what their publishers want?
Linda Gillard comments on such authors writing castly different novels and has personal experience of not sticking to one particular genre. I am not predicting Sadie Jones to suddenly be dropped by anyone but I think it is interesting when an author writes such vastly different books.
Have you any suggestions where authors have changed the type of novel they have written and been surprised?
5 thoughts on “The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones”
I would have liked more character too, but I think that maybe the story “floated” more effectively because there was less detail. One of the newspaper reviews i read suggested that Saki was a major influence – and the source of the name Clovis – and strangely The Chronicles of Clovis appeared in a charity shop last weekend, and I had to pick it up.
I want to read this, but mainly because of the beautiful cover! It sounds wonderfully quirky too.
The name Clovis jumped out at me but I can’t remember which book I read it in. I think that Evelyn Waugh’s books were very different from each other. You never know if it’s going to be something side-splittingly funny or a Brideshead type or even more war related.
When I think about it I can’t really think of a time where I’ve read a new book by a well-loved author of mine, and thought this is completely different! However the authors I tend to read the most of on the whole write fantasy…and I often get the feeling fantasy writers stick to fantasy writing maybe branch as far as horror/sci-fi? I do have two more Linda Gillard novels on my tbr pile though, so I might be saying it soon 🙂
This sounds like a really intriguing read. I fondly remember reading An Inspector Calls at school (one of the few things I read there that I really did love). I’ve also seen it on stage twice. Will seriously have to consider reading this book on those grounds.
You make an interesting point, Jo about authors having problems changing genre. It is very hard to do. The problem lies with publishers, not authors. I think every author I know has at some point said s/he fancies a change and feels constrained by what s/he’s already written. I know one well-established YA author who would love to write for adults – but that’s an almighty leap in terms of genre and creating a new readership.
Publishers think it’s hard to market a change in genre which is why they recommend a pseudonym if you want to change genre. (Iain M Banks, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Nora Roberts/ J D Robb.) Launching a “new” name is apparently easier than saying “And now for something completely different…”!
Certainly my troubles with publishers stemmed from the fact that I’ve yet to repeat myself with my 5 published novels. (The next is yet another big deaprture – a supernatural love story.) That made me tough to market and impossible to pigeonhole in a particular genre. (It’s a genre I think of as “Rattling Good Yarns”!)
So I’ve now gone completely indy on Kindle. I’m not even looking for a publisher for the next novel. Readers who buy ebooks seem to have an open mind about genre-mixing and to judge from the number of them who contact me to say they’ve now downloaded all my books, I have to assume that author loyalty is what’s driving those sales, not genre.