The Uninvited Guests is a delightfully original novel. At first it seems to be an Edwardian family social comedy that reminds me of the light, eccentric novels written by Stella Gibbons or Dodie Smith, but then it takes a turn toward the bizarre.
The Torrington-Swifts live in a large, ramshackle house that is at risk because they can’t afford it. The grown children, Emerald and Clovis, make a show of resenting Edward, their kind, patient, one-armed stepfather. Clovis is sulky and irritable, while Emerald is more likeable. Charlotte, their mother, is selfish and used to being cossetted. Smudge, the youngest girl, is used to being ignored.
It is Emerald’s 20th birthday, and the family is preparing for guests and a party, but Edward must miss the party because he has to travel to Manchester to try to borrow money to save the house. The guests are settling in and a storm is building when other people begin to arrive. A horrendous train accident has occurred a few miles away, and the railroad has sent the passengers to the house for shelter. Among them is an odd character in a red waistcoat who insists upon inserting himself into the birthday party.
Here is where the story begins its strange turn as the party gets odder and odder.
The novel is extremely well written and completely captivating, with a touch of the bizarre.