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The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

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Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014.

Ruth is a widow in her seventies living alone in a house near a beach in Australia. She’s coping okay but her family are beginning to worry about her. Early one morning she becomes convinced a tiger is prowling round her house and phones her son in New Zealand. The next day a government carer, Frida, comes to help her. Frida quickly establishes dominance over Ruth. The author gives us a fine portrait of Ruth’s crumbling independence as Frida takes more and more control of her life. There are a few sub plots but it is Ruth and Frida’s relationship that is the meat of this story. As a reader we can see what’s coming. Ruth, of course, cannot so the eventual shock is truly sad, in a well written, frighteningly believable tale.

If you like Fiona McFarlane you might also like to read books by Maggie O'Farrell, Joanna Trollope and Lionel Shriver.


The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014.

In an isolated house on the New South Wales coast, Ruth, a widow whose sons have flown the nest, lives alone. Until one day a stranger bowls up, announcing that she's Frida, sent to be Ruth's carer. At first, Ruth welcomes Frida's vigorous presence and her willingness to hear Ruth's tales of growing up in Fiji. She even helps reunite Ruth with a childhood sweetheart. But why does Ruth sense a tiger prowling through the house at night? Is she losing her wits? Can she trust the enigmatic Frida? And how far can she trust herself?


Horribly believable, The Night Guest is an impressive debut novel that sustains the tense unravelling of its mystery. - The Sunday Times

A sensitive exploration of the workings of time and memory, by turns joyful and sad ... a wonderfully evoked portrait of old age that disturbs and elevates in equal measure. - Independent on Sunday

This psychological thriller feels uneasily close to the realities many families face ... What's real and what's imagined are terrifyingly difficult to distinguish. It's surreal and menacing. - The Times

McFarlane exploits the vulnerably blurry boundaries of memory here to create a subtle and beguiling crescendo of suspense ... A limpid, beautiful novel. - Daily Mail

About the Author

Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, has a BA from Sydney University and a PhD from Cambridge University, and holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow and won the university's prestigious Keene Prize for Literature in 2012. Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, The Missouri Review, and Best Australian Stories, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy, and the Australia Council for the Arts.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th June 2014


Fiona McFarlane

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Sceptre an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division


304 pages


Literary Fiction
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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