Note: A big thanks to Random House UK Vintage, C. L. Pattison and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of “The Guest Book” in exchange for an honest review.
Name: The Guest Book
Author: C. L. Pattison
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Book in One Sentence
C. L. Pattison’s The Guest Book offers the readers to delve into the hidden mysteries of a guest house and how it uncovers the dark realities of human psychology.
The book begins with a newly married couple – Grace and Charles – on their way to honeymoon. While on the train, a storm hits and they, along with other passengers, are stranded in a little town called Saltwater. Subsequently, we come to know that Charles used to spend his childhood there before his family moved out and he became distant from the lifestyle of the old town gradually. Charles becomes nostalgic over time. They are forced to take up residence in the old guest house named The Anchorage, where Charles used to come with his family as a child. Steadily, we see the dark secrets coming to light that makes the guest house such an unpopular destination for the locals of Saltwater.
From the very beginning, we can sense the underlying tone of something sinister. There was much foreshadowing in the process and we see how there is a hint of pathetic fallacy (in this case, the weather outside is acting as a reflection of the internal turmoil faced by Grace). The psychological narratives play an important role in giving structure to the story and develop the dimensions of the characters.
It is no surprise that there is a horror element present in the story. From the very beginning, you can sense its potential. However, until you have read the very last page of the story, you are left guessing about the reality – is it really horror or it is just the working of the complex mind? Although we, as readers, are compelled to give the former a nod, we cannot be certain until the very end as Grace’s narrative is sometimes explained from Charles’ perspectives, which seems more logical and settling. We also get a sneak peek at Grace’s past and why her narratives can be tampered with due to her underlying trauma. All in all, it keeps us guessing which side to believe and how it plays a major role in her narration. However, we are still aware of the underlying horror element treading the entire novel. How much of it is justified is only highlighted at the very end of the story.
The story starts with a newly wedded couple on their honeymoon and how it comes crashing down with the uncontrollable irony of nature and fate. Although romance is not in the story full-force, we also see how love can be both protective and harmful. Veracity differs from person to person. Even with such a subtle tone, love plays a major role in the story.
The narration is tricky and at the same time, foreshadows the crux of the story. We know the two known narrators – Charles and Grace. However, there is a third narrator – someone, who is not disclosed until the very end. We are left confused and keep guessing the identity of the narrator until the very end. The identity does get and uncovered at the very end when the climax happens.
As stated earlier, the timing of the climax is at the end. It is definitely not a complaint as the rising action builds up quite steadily throughout the story. The ending is perplexing and shocking at the same time. As a reader and lover of mystery thrillers, I had thought of a lot of scenarios for the ending but kudos to the author for coming up with an unexpected one.
Significance of the Title
The book does justice to the title of the book. The guest book in the story plays an important role in determining the plot of the story. It also foreshadows some of the incidents that are revealed later in the novel. Although it appears once in the story and has been referred to a handful number of times later, the weight it provides to the plot does not go unnoticed.
All in all, The Guest Book is a chilling as well as an engaging read. The novel takes you to a place of the supernatural, where dark secrets are hovering all around you. The story was going at a steady pace and by the time I was halfway through it, I could not put it down until the very end. It is a haunting tale, full of twists and turns.
Something rises darkly inside me, a violent reverberation of unease. I push it back down, clenching my fists with the effort.Grace McKenna
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