By Sadie Jones
This is just the strangest little book! Kinsey recommended it last year as a good spooky story for Halloween reading, and I’ve only now gotten around to reading it. I’m not even sure quite what to think. Oh, I liked it a lot, but was never quite sure where I was standing with it, either.
It started as one of those impoverished English gentry books (you know, where the insular family starts to decay along with their surroundings?); it reminded me a bit of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. Then things took a turn for the worse and it was a bit of an adult Lord of the Flies, which was actually pretty horrifying, though still in a disconcertingly genteel way. As the various mysteries were revealed, though, I realized exactly what this book is: it is a written Edward Gorey illustration.
In fact, it is so much Edward Gorey that when I searched to find a representative illustration, I found the following eight that are literally characters or scenes from the book. I’m putting them after the cut, not because they are spoilers, really, but so I don’t fill up the entire home page with lots and lots of Gorey illustrations.
I’ve put the images roughly in chronological order to the plot in the book, mostly to amuse myself:
Charlotte, the mother: very beautiful in a frail way, and very theatrical.
Florence, the housekeeper/cook: a formal, rigid woman, always dressed in unrelenting black.
In case you think I’m exaggerating with these images, the book also features a brother and sister pair, Clovis and Emerald, and Florence creates a fancy cake for Emerald’s birthday.
This one especially gets me: except for one person, there is a clear one-to-one correlation between the guests in Gorey’s party here and those in the book.
One of the guests, Ernest Sutten, is much admired by Emerald for his upstanding-ness, even though she finds his spectacles slightly off-putting.
The three men in attendance of the birthday party must several times search the house for the wayward, titular uninvited guests.
This, perhaps, needs no explanation.
This will get no explanation; you’ll just have to read the book.
YOU ARE TOTALLY RIGHT ABOUT THOSE PICTURES. I’m glad you liked the book. It’s so weird and creepy and impossible to describe. And I’ll admit it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out who the guests were.
Okay, you have hooked me. I definitely need to read this. Good grief.