Ruth is widowed, her sons are grown, and she lives in an isolated beach house outside of town. One day a stranger arrives at her door, looking as if she has been blown in from the sea. She claims to be a care-worker and Ruth lets her in. But who exactly is she letting in?
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[A] glittering debut . . . The Night Guest 's precise and elegant prose has been praised . . . but what really stands out is its portrayal of one life lived, told with a fullness that is reminiscent of another masterful antipodean novel - Emily Perkins's The Forrests . What is most tenderly depicted is Ruth's backward reflection on her life choices - her marriage, unfulfilled romances, her role as wife and mother. This forms the heart of the book, outside the thriller-ish plot, and it is rendered with extraordinary maturity for such a young writer.
Independent||McFarlane deploys her unreliable narrator skilfully, confining the reader to Ruth's increasingly bewildered consciousness while heightening the menacing threat posed by Frida. Horribly believable, The Night Guest is an impressive debut novel that sustains the tense unravelling of its mystery.
The Sunday Times||A sensitive exploration of the workings of time and memory, by turns joyful and sad, and sustained throughout by clear and delicate prose . . . Ruth's viewpoint delivers tremendous insight and empathy . . . The Night Guest is a wonderfully evoked portrait of old age that disturbs and elevates in equal measure. The symbolic tiger, frightening, untameable, but awe-inspiring, is an important aspect of its power.
Independent on Sunday||This psychological thriller feels uneasily close to the realities many families face . . . What's real and what's imagined are terrifyingly difficult to distinguish. It's surreal and menacing.
The Times||McFarlane exploits the vulnerably blurry boundaries of memory here to create a subtle and beguiling crescendo of suspense. Facts shift like the dunes beyond the back door. A limpid, beautiful novel.
Daily Mail||Fiona McFarlane's debut novel is a conundrum for the reviewer - a book with a plot which, when summarised, suggests little of its charm, wit, and suspenseful energy . . . this is a witty, poetic psychological thriller in which the reader becomes so firmly embedded in Ruth's mind that one cannot help but sympathise with her confusion . . . The question of Frida's integrity, or lack of it, gives the book its narrative edge; but its joy comes from McFarlane's language, which perfectly captures Ruth's old-fashioned, gently rebellious spirit, and the almost enjoyable onset of vagueness . . . This is a very moving description of old age
Financial Times||How much torment can you bear before you put a novel down? For a reader unsure of the thickness of their skin, Fiona McFarlane's promising debut may provide the answer to the millimetre.
Literary Review||Be prepared: on the day you sit down to read this book, you will become an antisocial, distressed and confused person. You will probably utter no words all day but a whispered "Oh God" when you finish each chapter and have to, but have to, go straight on to the next, neglecting your life, your family, your bills, your work, your washing. How dare a 35-year-old author from Sydney be such a super writer - the kind of writer who half-makes you think "I could write a novel like that", because it seems so effortless, but half-makes you think "I might as well give up writing right now", because it's so good?
Country Life||A powerfully distinctive narrative about identity and memory, the weight of life and the approach of death . . . Frida is a fantastic creation; and her relationship with Ruth, a messy combination of big lies and small, important truths in which the power dynamic shifts by the second, is touching and terrifying by turns . . . The achievement of McFarlane's book is to demonstrate with such clarity and measured compassion that the mind, in the end, is where all tigers live.
Guardian||'[An] intense debut novel about ageing, loneliness and menace . . . McFarlane wrote this after witnessing both grandmothers' dementia. In the beautifully realised, complex character of Ruth she has paid fitting tribute.
Sunday Telegraph||The Night Guest is a battle to preserve internal order and civility from the madness and barbarity lurking outside . . . McFarlane beautifully captures the protracted loss of Ruth's faculties, one day at a time, like the tide eroding the shore
New Statesman||Fiona McFarlane's stunning debut is beautifully written and psychologically tense. The Night Guest elegantly explores the themes of loss and loneliness, the physical burdens of old age and mental frailty . . . there is an inescapable sense of unease, of things careening out of control as Ruth happily allows her independence to be deliciously undermined . . . [An] extraordinarily accomplished debut.