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The Night Guest

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  2,117 ratings  ·  482 reviews
A mesmerizing first novel about trust, dependence, and fear, from a major new writer

Ruth is widowed, her sons are grown, and she lives in an isolated beach house outside of town. Her routines are few and small. One day a stranger arrives at her door, looking as if she has been blown infrom the sea. This woman—Frida—claims to be a care worker sent by the government. Ruth le...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Faber & Faber (first published August 21st 2013)
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The Goldfinch by Donna TarttThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk KiddAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrThe Circle by Dave EggersThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Man Booker Prize Eligible 2014
24th out of 163 books — 409 voters
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Miles Franklin Longlist 2014
6th out of 11 books — 14 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen
this book perfectly illustrates that whole frog-in-boiling-water scenario.



it starts out in a fairly straightforward way, telling the story of ruth, an elderly, widowed woman living alone in a remote beach house in australia. she has two grown sons, with busy lives and children of their own, who phone her periodically, but her life is largely solitary and lonesome. she has a tendency to sit around and meditate on the past - on her missed opportunities, and on the happiest times of her life, when...more
Ryan Dejonghe
After reading this book, my mind is flooded with questions. Where have we gone as a society? How are we caring for our parents? What is it like in the mind of someone suffering dementia? And on and on. Much of that is answerable in our own conscience, which makes me believe the author has achieved her goal. And now I feel like phoning my dad. Like now.

This book seems to have two halves. I liken this to a chess match. The author takes the time to set up the board, carefully putting each piece in...more
Zoeytron
Ruth, a 75-year old widow, lives with her two cats in a cottage by the sea. Her husband is dead, and her two grown sons are occupied with their own lives and living far away. Although Ruth feels that she is not doing too badly, that is not altogether the case. She sometimes forgets that her husband is gone, wonders if it is time for Christmas, fails to wash her hair for weeks at a time.

Frida appears out of nowhere, purportedly sent by the government to help out. She is moody and capable, if sli...more
Blair
An elderly widow, Ruth, lives alone - except for a couple of demanding cats - in a beach house somewhere in Australia. Here she is largely content with her solitary life, and spends a great deal of time reflecting on the past, particularly her youth in Fiji. This quiet existence is disturbed by two events: Ruth's conviction that she has heard a tiger prowling around her home at night, and the arrival, the next day, of a woman called Frida, who claims to be a government carer sent to help Ruth wi...more
Nancy Oakes
4.5 rounded up. Forgive the uber-long review, but I loved this book and really want to share.

I don't know the last time I've ever been this unsettled by a novel. I started it, was intrigued, picked it up again the next day and read until just after 3 a.m. when I finished it. Then I couldn't sleep for another hour and a half, mulling over what I'd just read and trying to calm the anxiety this most excellent book had caused me. The Night Guest is author Fiona McFarlane's first novel and if this is...more
Angela
I am still feeling disturbed.

‘The Night Guest’ is a haunting novel. It depicts the frailty of those who lose the ability to maintain independence, and the psychological manipulation that can be injected into such a fragile situation.

Ruth lives alone following the death of her husband. She is content in her solitude, enjoying the peace of the seaside location and finding comfort in small routines from which her decision making ability is largely based. Enter Frida, sent by the government to ass...more
Susan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chihoe Ho
"The Night Guest" was different than what I thought it was going to be. It wasn't a fast-paced, tense novel of an elderly woman visited by a stranger, harbinger of deep dark secrets that will turn the life of Ruth upside down. It didn't ooze desperation and intimidation. There was one particular part of the novel, perhaps halfway through it, where the plot took a turn and got really uncomfortable to read. I thought that was when all the madness would start but author Fiona McFarlane puts it on a...more
Diane S.
3.5 Ruth has lost her husband, her sons are grown and moved away, she now lives alone in the house that was supposed to be her and her husband's summer house on the beach. She is 76 yrs old and is convinced she hears a tiger in her house at night.

Insidiously creepy, not ghost creepy but psychologically creepy. The plight of the elderly, living in and with their memories, the loneliness and the despair are all portrayed her. This book started out slowly, seemed straightforward but than takes a si...more
Laura Lilly Cotten
If 'Mrs. Dalloway' and 'Disgrace' had a baby, and that child got together with 'Big Fish' and they reared a book whose biological parents had been magical realist novels, that child would be something like 'The Night Guest.'
While the ending feels a bit abrupt in relation to the curious and building bulk of the novel, the beauty of description and character in McFarlane's novel distinguish this one as a poignant and fascinating debut.
Mmars
Elements of this book could have shown up in a Hitchcock movie. Ruth, an elderly and increasingly confused woman, lives in an isolated beachfront house selected by her now deceased husband. Frida, a supposedly "government carer" walks up the dunes to Ruth's house the morning after Ruth has smelled and heard a "night visitor" roaming her home - a tiger whose presence also raised the fur of her multiple cats. Ruth's sons live distance enough from her that they rarely visit nor do the residents of...more
Jill
Take an aging, vulnerable woman who lives alone in an isolated environment. Add in a less than savory caregiver who gives copious hints that she is not everything she says she is. It’s a formula that has been used by Tatjana Soli in The Forgetting Tree and the Finnish author Tove Jansson in The Unwanted Guest… among others. Fiona McFarlane revisits it in The Night Guest and places her own spin on it. And the great thing is – it works, exceedingly well.

The two key characters are Ruth Field, a wom...more
Marianne
The Night Guest is the first novel by Australian author, Fiona McFarlane. In a novel filled with gorgeous, evocative prose, McFarlane builds a tale encompassing the following elements: an old widow living alone (Ruth Field); a deceased husband (Harry); two sons remotely located (Jeffrey and Phillip); a formidable care worker who insinuates herself into the widow’s life (Frida Young); the elderly man who was once the object of the widow’s teenage infatuation (Richard Porter); a taxi driver (Frida...more
Elizabeth
Jan 13, 2014 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Chaitra
Shelves: fiction
Death. Fear. Loss.
Aging. Lonliness.

This is a gorgeous read but cautionary tale that is impossible to review without spoilers.
LOVED.
Anna Spargo-Ryan
Something I think about a lot (and this is obviously not specific to me, no matter how self-absorbed I might become), is loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness that comes from being a young, single person, or the kind of loneliness that comes from being a social pariah, but the loneliness of old age. The kind of loneliness that is only cured by mortality; the kind of permanent loneliness that happens when you have loved someone for your whole life and then they are gone. That one. I think about...more
Jane
Horror--but actually this is psychological horror--is generally out of my comfort zone. This novel was certainly creepy and you can mark the slow descent of an older woman's mind into dementia. However, what I felt were too implausible situations or circumstances precluded my rating the book any higher.

Ruth Field, a lonely widow now in her 70's, lives in a beachfront home on the Australian coast outside town. She's been isolated since her husband died, and her grown children live elsewhere. They...more
Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer
I'm really torn on how to review this book. This was one of the most uncomfortable reads I've had in a long time. You know fairly early that something is not right with Ruth and Frida's situation and as it festers I found myself getting more and more agitated and upset. Each time I put the book down I was disturbed for a few hours thinking about it and didn't want to back. By the end of the book I wanted it to end so desperately that I was speed reading to get it over and done with. A truly pain...more
Laura
This author has a way with words. The intensity of the writing makes you say "just a few more pages and then I'll put it down". The story shows such vulnerability in the human race. I loved that I had no idea where the story was going but bit by bit things started coming together. This is a heartbreaking story. I felt like I had been ran over by a car as it came to a close. A very eye opening novel, highly recommend.
Rebecca Foster
“Ruth woke at four in the morning and her blurry brain said, ‘Tiger.’” In this first line of her debut novel, Australian writer McFarlane introduces a few key elements: insomnia, mental instability, and a more than fleeting hint of magic realism. Seventy-five-year-old widow Ruth Field lives alone in an increasingly dilapidated beach house in New South Wales. Or at least until page 8, that is, when Frida appears. Frida Young, a government-assigned carer, turns up unannounced and immediately makes...more
Bonnie Brody
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane is a psychological thriller of the first order. It begins in a seaside town of Australia where Ruth Field, a 75 year old widow, lives on her own. The home is fairly far from Sydney where Ruth once lived. It is near a small town but is mostly isolated with a wonderful view of the ocean. Ruth is fairly independent but there are some early signs that she is deteriorating mentally. She thinks she hears a tiger in her lounge at night and often calls her son Jeffrey...more
Michael Livingston
This is among the best of the books from Stella Prize longlist that I've read so far - it's at times a haunting meditation on aging and loneliness, at times an unbearably tense mystery and at times a depiction of a complicated friendship between two women. I knew nothing about the plot going in and felt the unease develop in the pit of my stomach as the relationship between the two main characters developed - it's really beautifully done, with Ruth's fading memory and Frida's domineering helpful...more
Kate
Jul 22, 2014 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: The Readers
Shelves: 2014-books
This is a wonderful debut novel from Fiona McFarlane. Widowed Ruth lives by herself in a beach house far from her sons and not too close to her neighbors. She had raised her family in Sydney and upon her husband's retirement, they moved out to their vacation home, leaving busy Sydney behind. Her husband died, leaving her alone and she has managed fairly well until Frida shows up to help her with meals, cleaning and managing her chronic back pain. Initial questioning of Frida's arrival gives way...more
Cynthia
A cautionary tale

In “The Night Guest” McFarlane creates an exquisite sense of menace. The book is unsettling. I found myself wanting to finish it in order to escape the discomfort. Ruth is in her 70’s, living alone for the past year, since losing her husband. She lives in a fairly isolated beachfront property in New Zealand. Her two grown sons live outside the country though they call regularly. Left on her own Ruth begins to dwell on the past and wonder what might have been. She’s not terribly...more
Sally906
THE NIGHT GUEST was a book that I really wanted to read – there is a big buzz around the reading fraternity as to how great it was and I didn’t want to miss out. Well, I didn’t think it was great but is certainly very good. It is intriguing and thought provoking as it looks at aging, aged care, manipulation, trust and the vulnerability of the elderly to crime. I had to ring my elderly mother when I finished it just to make sure she was ok – even though my brother and sister live nearby her. It’s...more
Laurel-Rain
Ruth Field is a widow in her mid-seventies, navigating the uncertain life that is hers without her husband Harry. In the years since his sudden death, she has formed some routines that carry her through the days, but sometimes, at night, she is awakened by what seem to be noises. At one point, she thinks of a tiger. She is afraid.

In the light of day, her fear fades away. But one morning, after a disturbing night, a woman appears at her door, announcing she is a caregiver sent by the government....more
Helen King
I found I was drawn into to this book - but at the same time, it was an uneasy read due to the topic. So hard to review without giving away too much, however it is apparent from the very beginning that Ruth, who has fairly recently become a widow, is also experiencing some degree of dementia. The book left me feeling sad for the elderly (in this case) and the uncertainty that they feel, and reinforced the importance of supportive, trustworthy, family and friends (and can say no more!)


A few quote...more
Kerstin
Kurzbeschreibung:
Die betagte Ruth wohnt in einem entlegenen Haus am Meer. Seit dem Tod ihres Mannes ziehen ihre Tage gleichförmig dahin, allein vom Rhythmus der Wellen und dem Klang des Windes geprägt. Eines Tages steht eine vom Staat geschickte Pflegekraft vor der Tür. Die tüchtige Frida übernimmt schnell das Regime, sie kümmert sich um Geldangelegenheiten und die Medikamente, sodass die alte Dame das Haus gar nicht mehr verlassen muss. Langsam entgleitet Ruth das Gefühl für die Realität: Gege...more
Šárka Huďová
I dont know WHY is the one of the most remarkable book of 2013. The story is boring and predictable. Somereaders are saying: I have to think about 'How we take care of our parents.' 'How deep our society has fallen.' etc. And yes, that is what the book wants to say. But sooo boring way.
Lisa
The Night Guest is the first novel of Sydney author Fiona McFarlane, and it’s a promising debut in the popular psychological thrillers genre. It’s the story of an elderly widow living alone in a coastal holiday house, and the carer who comes to stay with her.

There are two sons, fond, but absent. There is an old boyfriend who lives in Sydney, but he’s not willing to disrupt his own life. If Ruth ever had a network of friends like most women do, she lost them when she and Harry made their holiday...more
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