Saturday, July 23, 2016

Australia: The Night Guest, by Fiona McFarlane

I was back on familiar territory with this book, at least geographically, the setting being a beachside town somewhere in the region of Sydney. Ruth is an elderly widow living on her own. One of her sons is in New Zealand and the other in Hong Kong. One morning Ruth wakes believing a tiger has been prowling through her living room in the night. Later that day a woman called Frida arrives, announcing she has been sent by the government to care for Ruth.

This is a novel that is a convincing and suspenseful portrait of the unraveling of an aging mind. But its portrait of Ruth does not relegate her to senility, giving a fully rounded view of her life and loves. There is plenty of suspense in the book, with new twists just when the reader is convinced of the path the book is taking.

This book was long listed for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for a number of other awards. Fiona McFarlane has also published a book of short stories. I look forward to seeing what she will come up with next.

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