Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Books Like Whoa: The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (2012 Book Countdown)

Kicking off my 2012 book countdown... these are the books I most enjoyed this year, besides some of the ones I've already reviewed. We'll get started with some Sadie Jones.

The Uninvited Guests
by Sadie Jones

Procured from my wonderful local library

Procured on July 12, 2012

Finished on July 14, 2012

Format: Hardback with the American cover, which isn't as fun as the British cover

Why I gave it a try: I saw it in Foyle's when I was in London in the spring. I was intrigued but not sure enough to bite for the full hardcover price (especially in pounds! US, we really gotta work on our exchange rates). When I saw it again at my local library, I decided to go for it

Summary: A genteel British family is falling on hard times and may be forced to sell off their family estate in April 1912. However, the Torringtons all try to put the unpleasantness out of their minds in order to celebrate the oldest daughter, Emerald, on her birthday. Their perfect plans with friends and family are ruined when a train crashes nearby their house and they are forced to shelter and feed a pack of lower class passengers. These "uninvited guests" soon elicit unexpected responses from the original party, and secrets emerge that could change the course of all of their lives. 

Thoughts: This books isn't perfect, but it's one of the better examples I've seen of a current writer channeling a period tone and voice. Jones was trying to write as if she were a 1910's author telling a dinner party story. It's clunky at first, but as she (and the reader) warm to the material, she hits her stride and convincingly renders the vernacular in the dialogue and narration.

Besides the charms of her period prose, Jones excels at painting the scene and setting the mood - a lot of the fun of this book is enjoying the world she created. I also managed to avoid spoilers on the plot (which I will also spare you), which meant that I found the direction that the story went genuinely surprising and satisfying. From what I've read since, some of the major reviews of this book do give away a key part of the plot, so I would warn you away from those. It's more satisfying to guess at what's happening.

More than anything, though, I found this to be a compassionate view of the changing relationships between parents and children as children become adults. The family dynamics of dealing with the somewhat difficult matriarch ring true to life and reminded me of what it means to be a kind daughter. It means seeing your parents as human beings with human motivations and human failings, and still treating them with love and understanding. And if you're lucky, that kindness will run both ways.

I'm not sure that this is a book for everyone - but it was right in my wheel house of theme, setting, and plot, so I tore through it in one night.


5 - It's really good; well written and pleasurable 

Do you have any weaknesses when it comes to time period or themes? 

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