I’ve heard of Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party and assumed for a moment I’d read it. But it seems it was most likely a book I’d admired from afar, so The Guest List is my first book from the English author.
It’s not out in Australia until later this month but I did notice it’s been released elsewhere so decided to move it up my reading pile. Naturally it meant an extended bath* as once I started I had to keep reading until I’d turned the last page!
The Guest List
by Lucy Foley
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one.
The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher.
It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
Foley puts us in the heads of several of the characters of this book so we get to learn who they are first-hand, as well as via the opinions of our other narrators. I actually liked most of them… even Bridezilla Jules wasn’t actually that bad.
Foley gives us sympathetic insight into Hannah (whose husband Charlie is Jules’ best friend), Olivia (Jules’ half sister) and Aiofe, wedding planner and owner of the The Folly. We’re also in the head of Johnno, a school friend of Will’s – his exact opposite in many ways – the type of guy who perhaps lived his best life in high school and never entirely grew up.
Will seems too good to be true and we soon learn Hannah’s had some anonymous notes suggesting it’s the case. She’s smitten though, and not a fool. They’ve not been together long, but Jules tells us she knows her mind and Will is everything she’s ever wanted.
But of course everyone has their secrets. Olivia’s dropped out of university and self-harming. Hannah tells us she has bittersweet memories of the time of year. Aiofe visits a grave near the house and has ties to its past. And Will, Johnno and their mates seem to have quite a few skeletons in the closet, though most have righted themselves since school.
We briefly meet both sets of parents and there’s obvious baggage on both sides. Will never lived up to his father’s expectations. Jules’ mother is somewhat self-absorbed and narcissistic while her wealthy father’s latest wife is close to Jules’ own age.
This book unfolds in multiple timeframes over the period of just a day or so. Foley flicks back and forth… from the wedding reception itself; to the day before and the arrival of the inner-circle who are all staying at The Folly.
She takes some time to introduce us to the key players the day before the wedding, though kinda fast-forwards through the wedding day and the ceremony itself before we land at the reception (or wedding breakfast or whatever it’s officially called).
She builds a sense of suspense via the storm battering the island. The power switches off and on interrupting the revelry several times; heightening everyone’s senses as a result.
The format of the narrative reflects the tense setting. We flit back and forth in time and to several of our storytellers. Abruptly but deftly.
Foley holds off on letting us in on a number of secrets until the very end, including the identity of the victim. It’s twisty most certainly and happily there’s a sense of closure which made me finish the book with a sense of contentment.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley will be published in Australia by Harper Collins on 20 February 2020.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* For those who don’t know, I predominantly (almost only) read in the bathtub. It’s actually something I’d like to change. To become something other than a bathtime-reader.