Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

The Titanic centenary and the success of Downton Abbey seem to have released a deluge of books set in the Edwardian and WWI eras and enough of them have come my way to make me feel I've reached the point of saturation.
So a story set in that time now has to have something different and creative to hold my attention and The Uninvited Guests does just that!

Downton Abbey - but not as you know it!

The story, which takes place over the course of one day, begins on an April morning in 1912 and is set at Sterne, a rundown country manor purchased by Horace Torrington who then, unfortunately, died suddenly leaving heavy debts and his family facing the loss of their home. Charlotte his widow has since remarried Edward Swift, a man her three children Emerald, Clovis and Smudge dislike. On this April morning Edward is leaving for Manchester to try and raise a loan to save Sterne.

At home the preparations are beginning for the elegant supper party to be held that evening in honour of Emerald's twentieth birthday. While the family outwardly attempts to keep up appearances their financial difficulties mean they have to make do with only two servants who must fill every role from cook to lady's maid and the normally rigid divide between upstairs and downstairs becomes rather blurred.   

I really enjoyed this first part of the story. It has a lightedhearted and comic tone that gently pokes fun at Edwardian upper class pretensions and the attention to period detail  provides a fascinating glimpse of everything from the kitchen to the boudoirs.

Then news is received that there has been a terrible train accident a few miles away and Sterne must offer  refuge to survivors until the railway authorities can send help. Eventually a bedraggled group of third class passengers appear and are unceremoniously bundled into a cold room, given a complimentary cup of tea and left to their own devices . Except for one first class passenger who is determined to join the evening's festivities and cause as much trouble as he can. Then there is the youngest daughter, Smudge, who takes advantage of the chaos to proceed with her Great Undertaking. 

With the presence of the uninvited the mood of the story changes.It becomes darker, quite sinister and spooky and increasingly bizarre with the surreal feeling of a strange dream . 

I loved it! Very original, a deliciously witty commentary on Edwardian manners and attitudes, a ghost story and a clever foretelling of the future.


  1. This one has been on my watch list for some time now, not least because I love the cover.

    That said- there is a character named Smudge? What is with upper class Brits and their bizarre nicknames for each other?!

    1. Her real name is Imogen and there is a reason for her nickname. I had to laugh because Smudge is the name of one of our cats.

  2. I can't wait to read this book!!

    1. Hope you'll like it, JoAnn, as much as I did. It's been getting mixed reviews so not everyone does.

  3. I've actually heard quite a few good reviews of this one and have it on my list. I just love that cover too!

  4. I'll look forward to reading your thoughts, Kathleen. I love the cover too - very creative and original.