Tuesday, September 18, 2012

'The Uninvited Guests'

Rare is the original story that comes into my life in the midst of time-worn tales of divorce, reconciliation, fantasy, sisterhood, and foreign intrigue.

Even rarer is the story that puts me in a comfortable setting, leading me along, until, like a kidnapper, it throws a cloth bag over my head, only to reveal its true self when the bag is lifted.  But because I had become so well-adjusted, the changes were subtle.

And that was a mistake.  A big mistake.

In Sadie Jones' new novel, 'The Uninvited Guests', you are at once pulled into the Edwardian setting; the wealthy family, their romantic longings, their selfishness.  And there is their ramshackle manor, Sterne.  There is societal humor and angst.  It has an 'Upstairs-Downstairs' type of feel; you can almost smell the food, hear the tinkle of wine goblets, and delight in the shallow desperation of each character.

But there are secrets, and they are doozies.

On a Spring day in 1912 in the countryside of Edwardian England, Emerald Torrington is preparing for her twentieth birthday party.  She has invited two dear childhood friends, and a neighboring young, wealthy landowner to the festivities.  The housekeeper and her helper are busy in the kitchen, baking a special cake and cooking delicacies.  Charlotte, Emerald's somewhat selfish mother, is in her bedroom, saying goodbye to her second husband, Edward, who is traveling to town to secure funds in order to prevent financial disaster.  Emerald and her brother, Clovis, engage in sparkling repartee (most of the barbs aimed at their stepfather), while their little sister, Imogene (a.k.a. 'Smudge'), has taken to her sickbed while preparing her Great Undertaking.

But then tragedy strikes, which turns the party on its ears.  A few miles away, a railroad accident occurs, which forces the Sterne household to take in the survivors.  And with them arrives a man ready to unveil a secret which could destroy the Torrington family.

As I said, this story will sneak up on you.  Athough it isn't 'Downton Abbey', the feeling is much the same.  But here's the thing:  It is purely original.  

For that alone, I thank Sadie Jones...

...my kidnapper.

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