Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (2012)

I have a fifty page rule - fifty pages, and if I still don't like it, then into the unfinished pile it goes.  Life is too short to waste on books you don't like.  There are too many books left to read.  Occasionally I break this rule.  It's usually turning the "50 page rule" into a "30 page rule" or less (see:  Melusine).

For The Uninvited Guests, I broke the rule on the other end.  I finished the god damned book.  And now it's stuck inside of me, at least for a little while,even though I didn't really like it.  At all.  Sadie Jones, you tricky devil.  With siren's writing, you enticed me further in, page after page.  What was going to happen at the party... how many uninvited guests were going to arrive.. who was this mysterious stranger, who in my head looked like the master of ceremony from the movie Moulin Rouge... the subtle writing that placed the mother, Charlotte, apart and at odds from her children, particularly her daughter, Emerald... the symbolic foreshadowing of the kitten's name... the whole Downton Abbey feel of the place, Downton Abbey without the saving grace of Matthew's money and the sparking wit of the Dowager Countess...

And then, it all got dumped over, like the soup.  Bits and pieces of good stuff everywhere, but nothing holding it together.  The plot basically just ran into the floorboards.

And really, all sloppy metaphors aside, what the hell happened at the end?  I guess on retrospect, without giving too much away, I can see what Sadie Jones was trying to do here, a reflection of Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories.  But I don't understand why...

I despise books that make me feel dense.  I don't mind some mystery and enigma (much of Connie Willis, my favorite author, is left between the lines for the reader to surmise), but there have to be some sinew holding things together.  Or it's spilled soup.

The Uninvited GuestsThe Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is a scene in this book in which the scullery maid spills the soup, and she and cook/housekeeper frantically try to put it back together.  But all that's left is chunks while most of it drains away.  That's exactly how I felt about this book.  There is some really great writing here, rich characters, a delicious setting... but the plot, like the above mentioned broth, leaks away into the cracks of the floorboards, leaving these rich bits without much connecting it.  I don't mind some mystery and enigma in a novel ( Connie Willis, who is probably my favorite author, has whole plots found between the lines, if you look and think hard enough), but something has to connect everything together.  Or it's just spilled soup.

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