Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Night Guest; Fiona McFarlane


Faber and Faber - 2013

Ruth Field is a 75-year-old widow living in a coastal town in Australia. She has two sons who telephone her regularly, and she seems to be doing fairly well living alone with her cats. One night Ruth wakes up to what sounds like a large cat --not her cats-- something much bigger. She thinks that there must be a tiger in her house. She lies still and does nothing, but she is sure about what she hears. The next morning all seems well, but while Ruth is in her garden a stranger, a woman with suitcase, appears from the area of the dunes.  She tells Ruth that her name is Frida Young, and that she has been sent by the government as a care giver to help Ruth around the house. Ruth does not seem suspicious of this woman or of this strange turn of events. She accepts what Frida says and allows her into her home.

It's at this point that serious red flags appeared for me -- first the tiger, now this stranger who appears out of no where. The more time Ruth, spends around Frida, the more fuzzy her memory seems to become. Bit by bit Ruth is beginning to live in the past, thinking about her childhood in Fiji and a man named Richard that she once loved.  It's hard to tell what is real or imagined, but the reader knows that something isn't right.  It seems unlikely that care giving is the real reason Frida has shown up at Ruth's home. Since Ruth’s sons Jeffrey and Phillip do not live close by, Frida is able to make Ruth dependent on her and to manipulate her in the process. 

The Night Guest made me open my eyes to the subject of loneliness and the plight of some elderly living alone. The story had all of the elements that I love in a novel: well drawn, believable characters, a story that moved at a good pace, and even though I  disliked Frida, I really liked the story.  I was so impressed to read that this is the author's first novel, I can't recommend it highly enough. I will be looking for more books by this talented young author in the future.

Read It!  4.5/5 stars

(review copy received through Amazon Vine)

18 comments:

  1. I love the sound of this one - especially as I really want to read more widely in Australian lit.

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  2. I think the story sounds great, but if I knew nothing about it and just looked at the cover, I wouldn't even pick it up.

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  3. I agree that cover doesn't make me want to read the book -- the reviews of others did though:)

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  4. This sounds pretty strange, and I agree with Tina about the cover!

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  5. This isn't released in the UK until 2014, but I have a proof and am looking forward to reading it. I'm really pleased that you've rated it so highly.

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  6. This sounds really good! Especially as right now we are going thru the whole dementia thing with my mom. Putting this on my TBR pile!

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  7. This story sounds imaginative yet plausible. Very nice review, Diane!

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  8. This sounds like my kind of book. I'm glad you reviewed it because I might have skipped right over that very unattractive cover.

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  9. This sounds like such an interesting book--scary too. It brings to mind my grandmother who suffered from dementia, and how long she was on her own before the family realized she really shouldn't be. And it makes me think of my mom, who, while still somewhat young, won't be forever.

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  10. I've been looking forward to your thoughts since you shared the opening paragraph on Tuesday Intro. I love to experience debut books. Will be looking for this book.

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  11. Sounds such a different kind of read. A subject which is very intriguing.

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  12. Dealing with aging parents of my own, this sounds like an interesting read. The cover really gets my attention, too. Wow.

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  13. Yes, don't judge a book by it's cover LOL!

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  14. You read this one quickly and t sounds well-worth the time. Such a fascinating story. I've read a little bit about this book in several magazines and book newsletters but I really wasn't sure what to think. Frida sounds horrid and I want to find out what happens to her.
    Great review, Diane, thank you!

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  15. A fascinating read for sure. Makes me want to find out the ending. I will have to buy this one.

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  16. Hmm. It sounds strange, but you were able to draw understanding from it. I like quirky so I think I'll kepp my eye out for this one.

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  17. Great review! I loved this book, too, and I was thinking "oh, no!" when Ruth so innocently allowed Frida in, not questioning her story. A great set-up, though, for what was to come.

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