In the past year, department stores have reported a huge rise in sales of silk dressing gowns and cotton pyjamas, a trend attributed to the success of Downton Abbey. How the Downton phenomenon will affect the literary market remains to be seen, but it can hardly hinder the prospects of Sadie Jones’s The Uninvited Guests, which opens, like the television series, in a beautiful country house one day in April 1912. Cynics may put this down to calculation rather than coincidence, but Jones’s third novel is a more playful, puzzling and altogether stranger affair than anything Julian Fellowes has to offer.
The Uninvited Guests is a departure from Jones’s bestselling and critically admired previous novels in more ways than one. Both The Outcast and Small Wars were set in the 1950s and both dealt, in a spare, realist mode which in the latter was almost entirely unrelieved by humour, with issues