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The Night Guest

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  4,372 Ratings  ·  818 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 in from the sea. This woman—Frida—claims to be a care worker sent by the government. Ruth l
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2013)
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Jean I've been wondering the same thing. I don't think there's a clear answer. I'd say the author keeps it ambiguous on purpose so the reader can identify…moreI've been wondering the same thing. I don't think there's a clear answer. I'd say the author keeps it ambiguous on purpose so the reader can identify with Ruth not knowing what is real and what is not.(less)
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Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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
Nancy Oakes
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Ryan Dejonghe
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
I managed to read this through to the end because the author writes so well. However it was a struggle as I alternated between being annoyed and depressed by the story and the characters. It was all so predictable - the elderly lady who needs to depend on someone after her husband dies, the neglectful grown up children living their own lives and the unpleasant individual who comes to prey on the helpless. I felt so sad for Ruth but at the same time I wanted to shake her for being so silly. So I ...more
☼♄Jülie 
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to ☼♄Jülie  by: Carolyn
Haunting....poignant....inspired....This is an author to watch!!

What a talented author is Fiona McFarlane, and what an amazing debut!

I was totally captivated by this story, it is so complex and so well crafted that it's difficult to believe that it's a debut for this author.
The characters are also very complex and so well developed that they could be portraying real people that we know and love.

I have never read anything quite like this...

Ruth is now an aged widow, but when her husband retired
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
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
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-book
***3.5 Stars***An emotionally unsettling cautionary tale imbued with magical realism about an isolated and confused elderly widow and her mysterious caregiver. The story gradually builds an undercurrent of menace as Ruth slowly loses her fragile grip on reality and entrusts her care to this ever more controlling and menacing caregiver. A very well-written, disquieting and subtle psychological fiction.
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book creeped me out!

There’s a general unease throughout, and a dreamy and panicky vibe, where we are never quite sure what’s real and what’s imaginary. There’s a narrator with an unreliable memory and skewed sense of reality, who’s befuddled and steeped in nostalgia; and a maybe-antagonist with ever-changing hair, who seems off from the get-go. It was a little odd, extremely readable and at times, unbearably suspenseful.
This a very confident debut novel by Australian author Fiona McFarlane. She has written a powerful story about how our society treats aging and about relationships involving power and manipulation.

Ruth is an elderly widow living in a beach house. Her sons live overseas and she is isolated and lonely. One day, Frida a carer who claims to have been sent by government services turns up on her doorstep. Gradually Frida takes over control of Ruth's life looking after her shopping, her medication and
The Night Guest, first novel by Australian author Fiona McFarlane, is a disturbing psychological thriller. Not a typical thriller, but one that creeps up on you as you progress through the book. Ruth, widowed, and living on an isolated Australian beach, is all of a sudden visited by a disheveled woman named Frida supposedly sent by the government. Frida starts taking over Ruth's life little by little. Meanwhile we see Ruth losing her sense of reality and independence.

This is a book about aging,
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Mary Lawrence
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm truly in awe of Fiona McFarlane's skillful debut novel. Many people have commented that it is a depressing story and have deducted stars in their response to it. Is it depressing? I wouldn't call it such. It's one of those books that yes, maybe you can sense how this is going to go down, but the way McFarlane gets us there is so worth the squirmy, unease that you feel reading it.

Her observations are interesting and they surprise. The characterizations are believable and you feel yourself in
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Anna Spargo-Ryan
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chihoe Ho
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
"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 ☔
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nicholas Cardelia
Jul 04, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-14
I need to stop buying books in airports. I read this on the plane from one coast to the other and at several points, I looked out the window and fantasized about how lovely it would be to hurl this book into the jet turbine.

Alright, perhaps I exaggerate. Though it centers on an elderly woman, it is all too apparent that the novel is written by a person who has yet to labor under the weight of progressed years and while I will say that the book does a nice job of building a sense of impending an
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Michael Livingston
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ladies-writin
Ruth is a widow who lives alone, her grown sons in other countries. Frida shows up at her house one day, a carer from the government she says, here to help out with the cleaning for an hour a day. Eventually the single daily hour turns into hours. Frida stays for lunch. Sometimes she makes dinner. When Ruth invites an old friend to stay with her for a weekend, Frida offers to stay the weekend too, just to help out. When Ruth discovers that Frida’s moved into her guest room, she’s mad about it, b ...more
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
Jul 08, 2015 rated it liked it
The Night Guest is a straightforward story about Ruth, an elderly lady living in isolation by the sea. Her aging mental deterioration and vulnerability casts all the insecurities and anxieties of the aging process as a ‘supposed’ government carer, Frida, befriends her. There was no budding tale of friendship and for a while even I trusted Frida, until it became clear how open the aged is to manipulation and that families should be vigilant in their duty of care.
Šárka Huďová
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
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Fiona McFarlane grew up in Sydney, Australia. She studied English at Sydney University and completed a PhD on nostalgia in American fiction at Cambridge University. She spent 3 years at writing residencies in the US - at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire - before studying for a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction at the Michene ...more
More about Fiona McFarlane...
“There's some sense in not going back. That way, you preserve it.” 1 likes
“Trap your tongue if it tattles out of turn.” 1 likes
More quotes…