Title: An Unexpected Guest
Author: Anne Korkeakivi
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Clare Moorhouse is the wife of a British diplomat stationed in Paris, and she’s about to throw the dinner party that can make or break her husband’s career. Her husband is clamoring to be appointed Britain’s ambassador to Ireland, but Clare has mixed feelings about the post that she hasn’t shared with anyone. She’s never told her husband that she’s been to Dublin, nor why she went there, but over the course of this day, her past is going to rear its ugly head and jeopardize everything her husband has worked so hard to accomplish.
An Unexpected Guest is a quiet novel that, on the surface, appears to be about a mundane subject – throwing a dinner party. Clare travels around Paris, making arrangements for the event. She shops for food, puzzles out seating arrangements, makes nice with a moody chef, and accommodates last minute guests to the party. All in all, it’s what you’d expect from a good diplomat’s wife – the ability to react to last minute changes and, overall, throw a competent party. But underneath this seemingly dry exterior lurks something much more sinister.
Clare has secrets in her past that she hasn’t shared with anyone, least of all, her husband, and from the beginning, it’s clear that before the novel is over, she’ll have to come to terms with them. From the second Ireland is mentioned, it begins haunting her, but neither Clare nor the reader are sure if she’s imagining things, or if someone from Clare’s past has actually found her and is threatening to expose everything. It makes for some nice suspense as the novel progresses.
Anne Korkeakivi’s writing in An Unexpected Guest is atmospheric and moody. Her prose is sharp and it sets the tone for the novel. The book is quiet, to be sure – it’s mostly a novel about getting through the day, haunted by what has been and what might be to come. In the end, it’s a bit predictable, but overall, it makes for a quick read that comes together beautifully.