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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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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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on 2 April 2015
Wow, what a great read! This is really unusual novel, hard to categorise or explain. Ruth is just a wonderful character and her plight is so vivid and real. One of those books that reveals things to you that you didn't even realise that you knew or felt until you read of them. At first I thought Frida was going to be a bit 'Annie Wilkes,' but her presence in the house is altogether more complex and subtle. Strange, unusual details about her are revealed and I could 100% picture the house with her and Ruth in it. The descriptions of ageing of the flesh and the mind are amazing - when Ruth describes Richard's ageing body for example. There is a real menace and unease running through the book but also it's very funny and grounded in places. Some of the descriptive phrases felt over the top but actually that just increased the kind of dream-like quality of the novel. I was left with some loose ends/unanswered questions after reading it, but strangely that kind of suited the disorientated, surreal feel of the novel. Amazing that it is a debut novel.
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on 22 December 2014
As others have said, it’s a bit tricky to write a review about The Night Guest’ without giving too much of the storyline away, it really is a book you need to read for yourself.

The central character is Ruth, a 75-year old widow, who lives on her own in a remote location on the New South Wales coast in Australia. Ruth appears independent and had two sons, who call regularly but live a distance away. The other main character is Freida, a larger-than-life character "sent by the government" to help Ruth with cooking, cleaning and so on. Ruth quickly builds a reliance on Freida and begins to forget a life before her. The other presence in the book is the tiger. Although a very central and important character, he only makes a couple of appearances. I know that there are a few different views on the purpose and representation of the tiger but I think that he shows the very fragile and vulnerable state of mind of Ruth.

I liked Ruth and I also liked Freida. I found the characters believable and I enjoyed seeing their journeys throughout the book. I think the book shows us that we should acre for each other and that although it may be easier to assume that everything is ok, it is always worth checking. Ruth’s sons were not so thoughtful and the outcome of the book could have been different if they were.

I enjoyed this book and although it started off slightly slow, I did get into it. The characters are believable and the descriptions of the setting and situations were very detailed but still easy to imagine and follow. A good read and quite thought-provoking for the reader.
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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 1 February 2016
my sisters and i loved this book. it is about an elderly woman living alone but who then has a carer come to look after her. we all had different ideas about what was happening in the book. was the woman imagining things? was the carer taking advantage? it is very easy to read, but gripping.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are many reviews on here detailing the story, essentially of a sad, lonely, 75 year old succumbing to 'old age.'

I thought it was amazingly written, particularly as a début novel. But... The final chapter. It felt rushed. It had characters that we hadn't encountered before.

Overall, up until then it was a solid 5 star book, but the final chapter stole a star.

Would I recommend it? Yes it wasn't predictable, was very well written and I DID like it.
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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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on 7 February 2015
This is an unusual book, but very weird and quite scary as an example of how a vulnerable person can be manipulated. . I found it easy to read but cannot make up my mind whether I liked it or not. Not sure I would recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a powerfully distinctive narrative about identity and memory, the weight of a life and the approach of death. Though she has "reached the stage where her sons worried about her" Ruth as she poignantly tells us is "not so old - only 75".

Also Ruth is not stupid: she knows shes imagining rather then hearing the tiger move through her house by night, its hot breath and heavy body attended by a "sense of extravagant consequence" that something is coming towards her.

The very next morning Frida appears at her front door, larger than life and twice as imposing -"sent by the government" to help Ruth with cooking, cleaning and so on. Ruth's son over the phone from New Zealand is torn between suspicion and delight at such a good useof tax payers money. Ruth previously had been content to live in her house in the dunes, feeling that it, like her, was "making its leisurely way on an island of its own to an open sea", but unpredictable, mercurial Frida, who arrives each morning with a different hairstyle awakens her to company, to touch, to the chance to tell her story of who she is to another human being again.

The story weaves its way around Ruth's worsening memory lapses and my foreboding and mistrust of Frida worsened along with Ruth's memory.

The achievement of this book is it demonstrates with clarity and compassion that the mind, in the end is where all tigers live.
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