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The Doubtful Guest

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  4,017 ratings  ·  182 reviews
The doubtful guest shows up unannounced and unwelcome, yet its presence is accepted after only a brief interlude of screaming. The staid, pale, Victorian inhabitants of the mansion alternately stare and glare at the doubtful guest as it tears out whole chapters from books, peels the soles of its white canvas shoes, and broods while lying on the floor ("inconveniently close ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published June 15th 1998 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1957)
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Average rating 4.42  · 
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 ·  4,017 ratings  ·  182 reviews

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Apr 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aaaahhrrrtt
this review is for bird brian!!

i am insisting on reading this book as a metaphor for parenthood. in this wonderfully-illustrated-as-always edward gorey book, this creature arrives one evening, uninvited, unexpected. and it looks like a weird-ass penguin in a scarf and some canvas kicks. and it just will not leave.

it came seventeen years ago - and to this day it has shown no intention of going away

i assume there are plenty of parents who feel this way about their odd children - the alien, the ot
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"At times it would tear out whole chapters from books
Or put roomfuls of pictures askew on their hooks"

Squee! Gorey! I haven't shelved any Gorey but I've read A LOT of Gorey which is possibly why I'm generally as cheerful as I am. And now I realize I need more Gorey these days, ones that sneaked past me like this awesome little gem-- which is perfectly relevant and weirdly therapeutic -- and time to revisit the trove. Come to Lori, Gorey. I've missed you, you sly fox.
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ever heard of the man named Edward Gorey?
Well, he's the author of this quirky story,
About a something from somewhere that shows up one day,
And shows no intention of going away.
Perhaps you've seen his drawings, his ladies in long dresses,
His alphabet book may have taught your your esses.
Ah, now you remember the man, Edward Gorey,
The author in all his pen-and-ink glory.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous little book and immensely weird! Four stars plus, what an artist, Edward Gorey. Beautiful & supercreative absolutely superb, intriguing black & white drawings. Every drawing accompanied by a two-line rhyme. Love the dark drawings and elusive storylines of Gorey. I keep looking at the drawings, for more details... Out of this world!!
What would you do if an unwanted guest arrived at your house and moved in for 17 years. Well, this little story is about a very strange guest that looks like a penguin and he is very trying. Funny enough, the family is unable to oust him from their house.

This was quirky for Edward and it was a fun little short story. I had a fun time with the story and art. Gorey is so Droll. This is the beauty of Gorey. Why tell a usual story when it can be so strange.
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Since the Doubtful Guest looks a bit like a penguin, I'm particularly enamored.


Now I long for a doubtful guest costume. Building the beak/nose would be the only tricky part, if one already happens to have a Doctor Who-like bizarrely long scarf, as who doesn't? Excellent costume for anyone who feels socially awkward, ie. at least half of humanity. Plus I'm short.

I never actually noticed the son growing up before this time, I don't think.

Personal copy
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"Then they saw something standing on top of an urn,
Whose peculiar appearance gave them quite a turn."

- Edward Gorey, The Doubtful Guest


A dark penguin (?) with white converse shoes, a wool scarf, and an affinity for bowls, plates, and urns shows up and inserts him/her/itself into a gothic Victorian family's estate. I think this book was created on a boozy bet. Gorey bet some absurd friend he could write a small poem of illustrated couplets and use the words:

1. Urn
2. Gramophone
3. Flues
4. Hooks
5. T
Dave Schaafsma
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read this a few times as a part of larger collections, but enjoyed it again. I recall great reviewer Karen insisting that the book is really about parenting for some people. In it a weird bird shows up in a Victorian mansion and doesn't leave for 17 years. They tolerate him, but as she says, "he is a total pain in the ass." "It" eats all the syrup and toast, and part of a plate; it rips apart a gramophone, lies around moping on the floor in inconvenient places, rips off the soles of its sho ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my introduction to Edward Gorey, I became an instant fan and thus began my fascination with his stories and illustrations. That said, these books are not for everyone. They will appeal to those with a humorous dark side who appreciate nonsensical verse with a touch of eccentricity. Think bizarre Dr. Seuss and substitute eerie black & white Edwardian illustrations for the colorful Seussian images. I own a few of Gorey’s books and I pick them up regularly just to clear the creative cobweb ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
I can tell that Edward Gorey has influenced many writers with his bizarre little tales as I have read books that contain similarly absurd series of events. I have no idea what the guest is, it looks like a completely black penguin wearing trainers. It seems to do things to annoy it's hosts, sleeping in the tureen and stealing bath towels. The illustrations are wonderfully dark as always, they are so full of detail you could easily get away without the words.

As usual with Edward Gorey nothing is
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-loved, poetry
You see this weird penguin-like creature with a striped scarf and white canvas shoes, wandering about, carelessly mysterious and not understood by anyone, including the reader. Is it a metaphor for pets? Children? Aliens? Who knows. All I can say is that you fall in love with it pretty soon.
Sep 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
An unexpected guest, a creature in sneakers, arrives at the home of a well-off family and remains for 17 years. As the rhyming couplets relate, there was no hope of the creature departing either.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Looks like the guest was an emo anteater! #zotzot Love it!
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: illustrated, humour
What to make of this book? It took about one minute to read and had little to say for itself. As usual with Gorey, his illustrations are interesting, but what's the point? As usual with me, when I first read a Gorey, I don't get it - why do I keep buying his books? If past experience is anything to go by, I'll return to this book and it'll start to find its place, and I mine with it. For now, a doubtful 3/5, which will likely improve with age.

A doubtful guest, indeed.

UPDATE: Let's try this again
John Whipple
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"At times it would tear out whole chapters from books, or put roomfuls of pictures askew on their hooks."
Behind every Gorey character, animal or creature there is a kernel of truth and allusions to something deeper. For me, The Doubtful Guest is difficult not to read as an unwanted child acting out for attention. One of my favorite elements of this short story - a counterpoint to this perspective - is watching the young boy in the family grow up in the shadow of this dark visitor, who is all
"It came seventeen years ago - and to this day it has shown no intention of going away."

Another Bizzare and Twisted read that was recommended to me by goodreads after finishing the "Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories".
The whole story was written in the shape of a metaphor and it kindda belongs to the dark humour genre which I seem to enjoy, it's my first read by Edward Gorey but probably not the last.
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, five-stars
Short enough to read while standing in a museum gift shop, and also rather funny. The penguin-y creature moved in and never left, and no one seems terribly bothered. Delightful!
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: op-de-plank
Beautiful pictures, 💛 the doubtful guest
Amanda - Go Book Yourself
This has definitely been my favourite in the Edward Gorey series so far. I agree with other readers that say this comic is a metaphor for life with children.

This weird hipster dark penguin type character shows up wearing a scarf ,white canvas shoes an is intent on causing havoc. He listens to no one, gets in the way, hides the bath towels, throws stuff in the pond and rips up books! He stays for 17 years and still shows no sign of leaving. Sound familiar to any parents out there??

Oct 20, 2019 added it
Shelves: graphic
Well, I liked this better than The Gashlycrumb Tinies. It’s more cohesive, and there’s more of a plot. I also liked the vibe much better; whereas that one just felt gratuitously gory and violent, this one is more atmospheric. It’s unnerving and creepy, but more because of the tension that builds than for anything gruesome. This book also had a bit more humor, as well as an unexpected turn right at the end. I can say that I definitely appreciate Gorey more now that I’ve read this one too, but I d ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-words
My brother Rickie will always be my Doubtful Guest ...
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
An unusual guest arrives out of the blue, does strange things, is accepted by the family and is still there 17 years later. Hmmmmm. Could the author be likening this creature to new additions to families everywhere, having children? Perhaps, perhaps not. Maybe it is just meant to be what it is: a cute poem with darling illustrations. Anyway, it is quite entertaining.
Pardis Ahmadi
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
it was so cute.
Dec 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
What a cute little story! Worst house guest ever, though. He seems quite the strange creature, and the residents of the house are the most patient people I’ve ever seen. The artwork is delightful, exactly the kind I like, despite only being in black and white. I laughed at the unwelcome guest’s antics.
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
I'd forgotten how wonderfully weird Edward Gorey's works can be and how much I love them. The artwork in this is shatteringly beautiful and the storyline is typical Gorey. ...more
I first enjoyed this story in the larger Gorey collection--but was delighted several years later to see that it had been published as a stand-alone book.

Tracking the odd and mysterious arrival of an unexpected 'guest', him/itself odd and mysterious, Gorey spins a charming tale of an amiable but elusive creature who takes up residence with a proper English family.

In 15 brief pages with typically spare drawings, Gorey says as much with his dry and witty illustrations, as he does with his rhyming s
Elisabeth Wallace
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Alana
I find this book almost eerily relatable to my home life. I don't think I will elaborate too much on that statement, but anyone who has known Mike since infancy will understand what I mean. (See quotes below)

"It was seemingly deaf to whatever they said..."

"...It brooded and lay on the floor, Inconvienently close to the drawing room door."

"It was subject to fits of bewildering wrath..."

"It would carry off objects of which it grew fond. And protect them by dropping them into the pond."

And lastly,
Jo Anne
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You will never go wrong with reading an Edward Gorey book. In this case, an odd creature wearing sneakers and a scarf sneaks into a home an wreaks quiet havoc in the household by stealing towels from the bathroom, lying on the floor in inconvenient areas and tearing chapters from books. For anyone who enjoys mayhem and twisted humor.
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
What can be better than a Gorey plate-eating, penguin-like bird in Chuck Taylors' who hides towels, for Gawd sakes! ...more
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Never too Late to...: 2020 December -- The Doubtful Guest 29 18 Dec 12, 2020 04:17PM  

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Born in Chicago, Gorey came from a colourful family; his parents, Helen Dunham Garvey and Edward Lee Gorey, divorced in 1936 when he was 11, then remarried in 1952 when he was 27. One of his step-mothers was Corinna Mura, a cabaret singer who had a brief role in the classic film Casablanca. His father was briefly a journalist. Gorey's maternal great-grandmother, Helen St. John Garvey, was a popula ...more

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