What I am Reading – An Unexpected Guest

The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames.” Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

I bought An Unexpected Guest written by Anne Korkeakivi for two reasons: I fell in love with the cover and the story is set in Paris. I have tried to explain the affect that my trip, two years ago, to Paris had on me, but words always seem to fail me. You have to go. If you already have, you know what I mean.

An Unexpected Guest takes place over the course of one woman’s day. Clare Moorhouse, the wife of the British minister in France, second only to the British ambassador, learns at the last minute, due to the illness of the ambassador, she is expected to host a dinner at her home for the permanent under-secretary. If it goes well, it will result in the likely appointment of her husband, Edward, as ambassador to Ireland, a position that he has waited for and richly deserves.

Clare knows her job well and organizes this crucial event like a general mounting an army about to go into battle. Reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, we see her efficiently dealing with difficult servants, surly French flower vendors, last minute guests, and the unexpected arrival of her troubled younger son as she goes about her day. There is, however, much more going on with Clare.

Edward describes his wife as “Tall, cool, white, smooth and wonderfully classic.”  Dressed in her beige cashmere cardigan, fountain pen in hand, carefully writing the place cards for her dinner, Clare is all that. The reader also knows from the first paragraph of An Unexpected Guest, that Clare is darker and more complicated. With skillful use of flashbacks, Korkeakivi tells the story of the young Clare who meets and  falls in love with Niall, “some cousin” from Ireland who is staying at her uncle’s home for the summer.

Slowly, Clare’s youthful mistakes, mistakes that carried her to 83 Portobello Road, Dublin are revealed. As the clock ticks relentlessly down toward her dinner party, her past sins race to catch up with her.

I always know that I am reading a great book when I start to read faster. This was the case with An Unexpected Guest. The pace quickens as the story builds toward a surprising and (for me) deeply satisfying climax underscoring, that, while we cannot undo the mistakes of the past, we can, if we choose to do so, learn from them.

I hope you enjoy it.

An Unexpected Guest

Enjoy the Paris scenes...






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