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on 7 August 2017
Intriguing, and strange.
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on 19 August 2017
A deeply disturbing story about how old peole can get manipulated by money-wanting people.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Night Guest is a rather wonderful and quite surprising novel.

We meet a widow, Ruth, who lives alone in a remote house on the NSW South Coast. She is convinced as she lies in bed one night that she can hear a tiger in the living room.

A few days later, Frida arrives on her doorstep with a sheaf of papers explaining that she is a government funded nurse who will provide assessment and, perhaps, an hour of care each day. This leaves Ruth somewhat bemused and feeling somewhat patronised. But because Frida appears to be Fijian and Ruth had a happy childhood in Fiji, she decides to roll with it. Indeed, she even makes contact with a former lover who broke her heart back in those Fiji days. At this point and for the first quarter of the book, it's not totally clear what the story is. It feels a bit Autumn Laing - proud old woman stubbornly resisting society's expectation that she can't cope.

But it starts to become clear that Ruth really can't cope. Her memory is not great. Some things are remembered clearly although with time even the most confident memories start to look shaky. The novel starts to take shape around the relationship that builds between Ruth and Frida, set in counterpoint by Ruth's relationship with her sons and Frida's relationship with her brother George.

Bit by bit, tension builds. At first there are hints that all is not well. But the volume keeps increasing. By the end, the reader stands with Ruth staring into the abyss.

The Night Guest is best read without knowing too much about it. That way, the surprises will be genuine. It is beautifully paced and extremely engaging. There is an excellent evocation of old age, growing helplessness, and the conflict between wanting to help but being frustrated. There are excellent questions of master and servant relationships; the conflict of generations; the conflict of money; the conflict of coloniser and colonised. If you only read one book over the Christmas holidays, you could do a lot worse than this one.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed Fiona McFarlane's debut novel, The Night Guest. It is set on the remote coastline of New South Wales, Australia where Ruth lives alone until the unexpected arrival of Frida, a carer sent by the government. Ruth's two grown up sons live very far way and have little contact with their mother apart from weekly phone calls. They don't seem very aware of Ruth's increasing forgetfulness or perhaps it's a case of "what the eye can't see".

There is a permanent air of tension pervading this story as the reader can't fully rely on Ruth's version of events. Is Frida a potential threat or is Ruth just misinterpreting events? Ruth thinks she can hear a tiger in the house during the night and this echoes the reader's experience as you're on the edge of your seat constantly thinking something bad is about to happen.

I loved Ruth's memories of her youth in Fiji and her first crush, Richard. If only her recollections of the present were more vivid, then she might be aware of impending danger.

After a slow start, I became really engaged by the story of Ruth and Frida. It's a very thought provoking novel, dealing with old age, the responsibilities of children towards their parents, how communities treat their elderly, how we can become invisible as we age. It has the potential to be a maudlin tearjerker but the author reins in the mawkishness and you are left with a gripping psychological thriller. Great debut novel.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a well written, engaging and insightful look into an older adult's experience of dementia onset and the way in which older adults (with or without dementia) are treated and viewed in society. When Ruth, the protagonist, is approached out of the blue by Frida who claims to be her new carer, one is immediately at once relieved that Ruth and her failing memory will no longer be alone and yet suspicious of Frida and her intentions. Of course Ruth has her own concerns, but being an 'unreliable narrator' due to her memory problems and confusion, the reader is left just as in the dark about Frida as the protagonist. There is a sense throughout the novel that 'there is something rotten in the state of Denmark' that something evil and ominous lurks in the background which is cleverly portrayed by the tiger that Ruth hears at night. This sense of foreboding increases as Ruth becomes increasingly unstable and her relationship with Frida and Ruth's brother plays out. This is not so much a relaxing read but an engaging one. Although it took a while to get into the story, once hooked I read this very quick to its conclusion (which I won't give away). A great novel that I would recommend and have already lent this book to my husband.
I look forward to reading more from this author.
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on 15 February 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ruth is a seventy-five year old widow living in a remote beach house in New South Wales. Her solitary life is filled with her cats, phone calls from her sons, and a tiger prowling her house at night - a presence which fills her with both fear and exhilaration. One day Frida enters her life, a forceful woman who says she has been sent by the government to be Ruth's carer.

"The Night Guest" charts the relationship between the two women as Frida insinuates herself ever more into Ruth's life. The reader is kept in a state of suspense about her motives whilst never being sure how much Ruth's version of reality can be trusted. The result is a horribly tense novel leavened by McFarlane's acute and sympathetic imagining of Ruth's inner life.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A psychological novel set in Australia. Vulnerable elderly widow Ruth lives in an isolated large house overlooking the sea (whales sometimes enhancing the view). Family contact is limited to phone chats with sons. Cats for too long have been her sole companions, a large cat her particular fear - she convinced a tiger stalks her home at night. Suddenly large, overwhelming Frida arrives to be her carer - a breath of fresh air, surely exactly what Ruth now needs. Is all, though, as it seems? Gradually the relationship between the two women evolves....

The outcome may be predictable, but is nonetheless distressing - here a slow but sure study of a mind in disarray. Is Ruth's increasing confusion simply the result of old age, or are more sinister influences at work? Memories haunt: the loss of husband Harry five years earlier; Richard the man she hoped to marry decades ago. What of him? Can acquaintance be renewed, Richard perhaps able to help her now?

An uncomfortable read, from its start there a feeling of foreboding that would not go away. I can understand those who did not like it very much. Those nearer Ruth's age are perhaps most able to empathize, they hoping minds will remain true up to the end. Skilfully Fiona McFarlane has created a situation where it does not.

Thoughts are provoked, not necessarily those one wishes to have.

Four stars for the way the book held me in its grip, not because it was enjoyed.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I almost abandoned this book not long after starting it. I was bored with what I thought was a long-drawn-out episode of an elderly widow thinking that a tiger was prowling around her house at night. To be honest, I still don’t understand why the tiger bit was relevant; the symbolism was lost on me.
However, I was glad I stuck with it because it became a decent read.

Ruth is a frail, independent widow living alone in an isolated house on a beach in Australia. Her two sons live far away and although they ring her fairly regularly, Ruth lives a lonely existence with just her cats for company. One day a charismatic woman walks up from the beach and informs Ruth that the government has sent her – free of charge – to be her daily help. From this point on the book becomes part thriller and part memoire as Ruth reflects upon her childhood, a youthful love affair, marriage and motherhood.
Although the book is sad in parts, it also describes a life well lived and is a reminder that love, kindness and contentment can sometimes be neglected in the search for personal happiness.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this book - it is sensitively written and a fantastic story which explores the process of growing age, both physically, growing weary and tired, but also mentally through emotions and thoughts.
The story is about a lady who is growing older and wakes one morning believing she can hear a tiger in her room. She is, of course, assessed by medical practitioners and provided with a care package which includes a nurse who visits daily - the nurse also grew up in an area close to where the main character was also brought up which provides opportunities for reminiscing however this also brings back painful memories. The story continues at a strong pace which keeps the reader enthralled but also brings many serious questions about the treatment of the elderly and how one grows old (hopefully gracefully but often not)
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on 10 May 2016
Tremendous first book by Fiona McFarlane.

My daughter commented to me that most of the books on my bookshelves were by male writers. Consequently, I have been trying to redress the balance by seeking out some strong offerings from female writers. This book certainly falls into that category.

Given that the subject matter focuses on issues that would not normally be high up on my list of reading priorities (old age, dementia and the responsibilities of children towards their parents), I was initially a little worried that I would find the book a little "preachy" or melancholy for my tastes. However, this concern soon dissipated, and I really enjoyed reading The Night Guest.

Others reviewers have mentioned the storyline, and as others have noted, it just goes to show that you can create compelling and taut suspense from just about any set of facts and any storyline if you are in the hands of a capable writer, such as Fiona Mcfarlane.

The juxtaposition of an unreliable narrator, the sense of uneasiness and the disconnect between the events that are actually taking place and the narrator's interpretation of those events is handled exceptionally well to create a book that contains enough energy, power, suspense to keep the reader fully engaged from start to finish.

Recommended.
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