Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests introduces us to the eccentric, dysfunctional Torrington-Swift family. There is the self-centered Charlotte Torrington-Swift, her doting second husband Edward Swift, and the three children of her previous marriage: Clovis, Emerald, and Imogen (aka Smudge). They live at Stern, a stately manor in the English countryside, but financial issues could mean them losing it. Edward is off to secure funds to save the home while those left behind celebrate Emeralds twentieth birthday. Then, disaster. A train accident sends some restless uninvited guests their way, including one Charles Traversham-Beechers. He claims to know of Charlotte's past, and he may just be wicked enough to reveal it.
Of all the characters, the most likeable may be Emerald, the capable yet resigned-to-her-fate birthday girl, followed closely by her odd and neglected sister Smudge. Clovis is quite the snob, and Charlotte an absent and vain mother. We also meet the Swift-Torrington housekeepers Myrtle and Florence, and the guests invited to Emeralds soiree: John Buchanan, Ernest and Patience Sutton, and, of course, Charles Traversham-Beechers. They range from the bland to the vicious, though some change their tune by the books end.
The story itself is very entertaining and well written. Told in third-persons, the narration is funny, witty, and just a bit quirky. I found myself laughing on quite a few occassions. Many that books that claim to be humorous satire rarely hit their mark for me, but this book had its true laugh-out-loud moments. Though a satire, a comedy of manners, the bigger message of the novel is not lost. We see the worst brought out in these society folk, both in how they treat each other and how they treat those they believe are beneath them. But we also see them grow and learn. Some, as I’ve mentioned, mature greatly through the novel and are changed for the better by the experience.
This book is clever, funny, and thoroughly entertaining. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys satirical novels, and anyone who wants a good look at human nature at its best and worst. Or just anyone looking for a wildly adventurous and truly bizarre tale.