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‘The Guest List’ book review: Outlandishly ominous

Keyur Basnet

Keyur Basnet

‘The Guest List’ book review: Outlandishly ominous

The book is outlandish. It is ominous. And I loved it for the sense of fearful anticipation I felt in the days I was reading it

People gather on an island, off the coast of Ireland, for a wedding. The groom, Will, is a rising television star. He is handsome and charming. The bride, Julia, runs a successful magazine. She is driven and smart. Everything has been planned meticulously, by Aoife and Freddy, under Julia’s strict instructions. 

But as the couple’s friends pour in, secrets and grudges are slowly revealed. People don’t like one another even when they seem really amicable and close. They are cut off from the rest of the world. The cell phone service is spotty. Then someone ends up dead. ‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley creates an atmospheric wedding vibe where tensions run high. There’s no mystery from the beginning of the story but you get the idea that something is off despite the perfect, ultra-glamorous setting. 

None of the characters is particularly likable. They all seem to have an ulterior motive. Johnno tricks Will into making him the best man and then forgets his suit at home. The bridesmaid, Olivia, who is Julia’s half-sister, ruins hers on purpose. Hannah, who is married to the bride’s best friend, Charlie, isn’t comfortable with the bond her husband shares with Julia. It doesn’t help that Charlie has started drinking since getting on the island, and alcohol always makes the otherwise calm geography teacher a bit aggressive. Aoife, the wedding planner, offers a 50 percent discount to host the wedding on the island. She wants to promote it in Julia’s magazine, The Download. But is that all she wants? 

There’s a lot going on—it’s sometimes a bit much to grapple with but in a good way. Also, the story is narrated from six POVs which keeps things interesting. I’m a sucker for thrillers and murder mysteries. It’s my guilty pleasure. It’s a great distraction from whatever is bothering me in life. For a few hours, I can stress about someone else’s problems and that, as weird as it sounds, is a wonderful way to create some distance from my own issues.

The Guest List is outlandish. It is ominous. And I loved it for the sense of fearful anticipation I felt in the days I was reading it. It also has a very Agatha Christie vibe to it—a cleverly concocted plot with plenty of juicy secrets for readers to discover as they read. This is the kind of book you’ll find yourself binge-reading, eager to find out how it ends. I now want to read the author’s most recent release ‘The Paris Apartment’—about a journalist who mysteriously disappears while living in an apartment in Paris. I need Foley to tell me another story.  

Four stars

Fiction

The Guest List

Lucy Foley

Published: 2020

Publisher: Harper Collins 

Pages: 378, Paperback