- Virginia Johnson
The year is 1912, and the Torrington family is caught on the cusp between a graceful if dying and class-conscious era and the fast-paced, more egalitarian and sometimes brutishness of the coming modern world. And for all that it is Emerald Torrington’s birthday on her family’s grand English estate, she was finding it terribly soothing that morning to pull uselessly at weeds and try to not cry, grown-up and beautiful young woman as she was. There would be a party in the evening—chocolate cake with green spun-sugar roses in her honor—and it would be the carefully-planned, best effort her lovely mother and their devoted housekeeper could put together, for all that her world—and everyone’s—seems to be ending. And then The Uninvited Guests show up.
Overspent in so many ways and with their home going on the auction block barring a miracle, Emerald and her eccentric family are just trying to hold it all together for one last night of celebration with a few distant friends. But as the invited guests arrive bringing with them childhood memories and perhaps the possibility of romance, a railroad tragedy delivers a slew of random individuals from a third-class railway carriage to the Torringtons’ door. Not invited to the birthday dinner and barely given tea, these poor people huddle in tiny rooms while the storm rages outside or roam about the house in search of a place to rest whilst the gentry, such as they are, largely elect to ignore their existence. But there is another uninvited guest who is admitted to the Torringtons’ celebratory table. With a roguish eye, red silk waistcoat and a penchant for cruelty, Charles Traversham-Beechers has come to Sterne house to revisit the past and play the sorts of games he likes best.
The Uninvited Guests, by award-winning writer British writer Sadie Jones, captures a macabre, madcap tone somewhere between Jeeves and Wooster and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The dialogue is engaging and the relationships between the characters piquant and pleasing. An excellent choice for a chilly day alongside a pot of tea.