09 Jan The Guests by Agnes Ravatn
Four grown adults, playing games … with no winners …?
Karin should be happy that she’s bagged a free week in a luxury cabin by the sea in exchange for her husband Kai doing some carpentry work on the jetty.
But she hates being beholden to Iris, her schoolgirl Nemesis, who owns the cabin.
The couple arrive to discover their nearest neighbours are Per and Hildra, successful writers. Karin has always admired Hildra’s books, in particular.
In an effort to impress, she and Kai pretend to own the cabin. But will their lies catch them out? And are there truths to be uncovered about Per and Hildra, or indeed more deception surrounding Iris, Kai and Karin themselves?
This is a slow-burning but beautifully written story, quite short at 180 pages, but it is what lies in-between the narrative, unspoken but plain, that adds to the strength of the plot and the realism of the characters.
None are particularly likeable at first. Karin, in particular, seems to carry a giant chip on her shoulder, despite having a lovely husband and home, a good job, and two healthy, happy young boys. Why is she so jealous of Iris?
But what I do admire about her is her unflinching honesty. She admits her envy, her jealousy, her desire to be something better than she is.
And she isn’t fooled by others’ fame and fortune, seeing through the vanity and pretensions of Per and Hildra.
As the veneers of the four main players are scraped away, the reader is treated to an honest view of them and their relationships, for good and bad.
The story is complemented by descriptive scenic prose as Karin and Kai, Per and Hildra, play out their week againt the stark and beautiful seascape in which they’re living, “surrounded by wind and water and rock.” Norway is a beautiful country, and the author paints this side of it with heart and passion.
There is no sudden thrilling moment here, no hugely unexpected plot twist, but if you like books that unflinchingly explore the human psyche, then this is for you.
The Guests by Agnes Ravatn is published by Orenda Books
About the Author
Agnes Ravatn is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 in 2007. Since then she has written a number of critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections, including Standing, Popular Reading and Operation Self-discipline, in which she recounts her experience with social-media addiction.
Her debut thriller, The Bird Tribunal, won the cultural radio P2’s listener’s prize in addition to The Youth’s Critic’s Prize, and was made into a successful play in Oslo in 2015. Critically acclaimed The Seven Doors was published in 2020.
Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to Orenda Books for the advance copy of the book.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster.
More dramatic books set by the sea