The Night Guest

nightguestThe Night Guest
by Fiona McFarlane (Australian)
2013 / 257 pages
read by Lisbeth Kennelly  9h 15m (B+)
rating: 8 / literary suspense

At first Ruth, a 70-something woman who lives alone in a rather remote part of  Australia and near the sea, thinks she hears a tiger,  but it is very clear it is not in the house.  It’s also clear to the reader that there is no flesh and blood tiger involved.

Next thing we know, a woman named Frieda shows up to help with the grooming and housework – she says she’s from the government,  but is that  totally true?  It seems rather odd because nobody sent for her. Friends stays only there for a few hours a day at first,   otherwise she lives with her brother George.  She’s simply a “care provider.”

In her youth,  Ruth lived in Fiji and as it turns out Frieda is from there.   This is the great element of suspense – why is Frieda in Ruth’s  home and what does she want?  But the story moves kind of slowly, although the psychological suspense certainly builds.

Ruth invites her old flame, Richard, who is now a widower, to visit.  He also knew Ruth in Fiji,  but Richard married a Japanese woman and so Ruth and Richard have not seen each other since Richard’s wedding.   But Ruth did marry and had two sons – her husband is now also deceased, the boys are grown and live in Sydney and New Zealand. Ruth really is alone except for Frieda.

The main characters,  Frieda and Ruth are very, very nicely drawn. although the story is told in third person it’s much closer to Ruth than to Frieda.  Frieda remains a rather unknown quantity – we’re never privy to her thoughts, motives, ideas,  but her actions speak pretty loudly.  Something is up.

Bottom line – it was pretty good novel in a lot of ways – something to curl up with on a rainy weekend.   🙂

4 Responses to The Night Guest

  1. I think I enjoyed this book more than you did Bekah (though 7.5 is a good rating isn’t it) … I thought the tension was well sustained, I liked the tiger motif, and I thought the development of Frida’s character and of Ruth’s was really well done. I thought there was a lot here to think about in terms of aging, dementia, and carers.


    • Yes, yes, and yes. I thought 7.5 was a pretty good rating. And the book was excellent on the theme of dementia. Wow! It was so gradual yet decidedly progressive. A tiger is a rather unusual sign of death, but considering her background in Fiji?

      Oh shoot, now you got me thinking about it – what brought my rating down was the pace – it seemed so slow, especially with that narrator. Also, I had just finished Boyle’s new suspense novel. But I have to consider the subtle character development more and that turns it into literary suspense so it’s going to slow down. I upped the rating. Thank you for pushing me to think this through.


      • Haha, thanks Bekah. I think given the intention of this novel, the slow pace was appropriate. Interesting how our “reading” can be affected by our mood, what we’ve just read, our expectations, isn’t it.


  2. Yes, the reader’s mood is so important!


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