Sadie Jones' novel The Uninvited Guests is a wonderful combination of the charm and wry social commentary of EM Forster, the lively fun characters and setting of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle and a dash of spookiness and sadness from a Henry James short story.
The Torrington family live in an old manor home named Sterne, but it is not their ancestral home. Horace Torrington passed away, leaving his wife Charlotte (now Mrs. Swift, as she has remarried), and children Clovis, Emerald and Imogen (or Smudge as she is called!) to fend for themselves. Their stepfather, Edward Swift is not well regarded by the children, and has decided to try and save the family home. However, it is Emerald's birthday and a party is planned regardless of his absence (which is fine with the children who do hold him in high regard anyhow). Guests have been invited, and some, well, some just show up.
Great prose, with lot of sparkle, wit and humor really move this story along. I loved the writing. "The children, too, feeling that they were at the end of a line,as children always do (for indeed, they are). loved Sterne as exhausted travellers with lifetimes of migration behind them might love their first and last home. Sterne was the mythology of their parents' marriage, their father's legacy, and it had given them the very best of childhoods. Beyond that, it was beautiful, and the effect of it on their souls was inestimable; once found, they all of them loath to give it up." I was entranced. There are many wonderful descriptions like this one.
The characters are great, believable in their foibles and imperfections: Charlotte Torrington Swift as the narcissistic and ethereal mother; Emerald as the idealistic, beautiful and smart young woman; Clovis, the man of the house in the absence of his one armed step father, arrogant and haughty, yet he so obviously adores the women in his life; Smudge, with her own plans and ideas of what's important in life (her pony!). Besides the family, there is an array of wonderful, if stereotyped characters who reside at Sterne, live near it, or arrive for the party, or in spite of it.
This book is a surprise, just like an uninvited guest at a birthday party. A very fun, summer read. I really loved being in its pages, feeling like I was at a party myself the whole time. Great fun.