Title: The Night Guest
Author: Fiona McFarlane
Opening lines: “…Ruth woke at four in the morning and her blurry brain said, ‘Tiger.’… ‘
Blurb: One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem. Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?
My Thoughts: THE NIGHT GUEST was a book that I really wanted to read – there is a big buzz around the reading fraternity as to how great it was and I didn’t want to miss out. Well, I didn’t think it was great but is certainly very good. It is intriguing and thought provoking as it looks at aging, aged care, manipulation, trust and the vulnerability of the elderly to crime. I had to ring my elderly mother when I finished it just to make sure she was ok – even though my brother and sister live nearby her. It’s that sort of book.
The story starts out a little ordinary – not much really happens – other than a tiger visiting Ruth which is obviously imaginary and leads the reader to think that Ruth is maybe losing her mind just a little. The ordinariness continued and I started to wonder just where debut author Fiona McFarlane was going to go with the story. A government nurse, Frida, turns up to check Ruth and is to come in for a few hours each day which eases the minds of Ruth’s sons that there mother is living alone. By the middle of the book I realised something sinister was going on – I even suspected I knew what the nurse was up to as she gradually took control of Ruth’s money, medication and house but all with Ruth’s blessing. Is Ruth really as muddled as the reader is lead to believe? The more that Frida takes control of Ruth’s life the more Ruth’s confusion grows and she becomes isolated from neighbours, friends and family; more dependent on and yet fearful of Frida. Is Frida up to no good, or is Ruth totally losing it – no one else seems to think anything bad is happening – the absent sons are overjoyed that there mother is being taken care of as it relieves them of the onerous task.
At this point I was really loving THE NIGHT GUEST, in awe of the author, and trying to work out what was going to happen. But it all fell flat at the end; I was left with an ending but so many unanswered questions. I hate not knowing answers – am I supposed to think whatever I want? Was the answer there and I was just so stupid I missed it? And is my own made-up opinion on what might have occurred at various points the correct one? It is too much pressure on this reader. There was certainly suspense – Frida’s character development is just wonderful as she started off innocently and then developed in to something quite different – I found myself continually wondering just what Frida was up to and what exactly was going on. Ruth gradually became a more and more unreliable narrator as her mind deteriorated so the reader is not sure how much is fact and how much is mental – which may be why there are unanswered questions. It is the ending which brought my whole enjoyment down, however I am going to check out any future books written by Fiona McFarlane because she is very good writer.
Rating: C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while
For more about the author – Click Here
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane is book # 40 for AWW2013