The Guest by Emma Cline – Book Review

The Guest was an interesting read. I’d previously enjoyed The Girls by Emma Cline and her ability to capture mood and atmosphere so well is strongly present in The Guest too. It makes for immersive reading as you really are cemented in lead character Alex’s reality.

Opening sentence: This was August.

The Guest is a sharp, concise look at a woman who is lost in life. The heady atmosphere with a thrum of tension is a character in its own right really. The story takes place over a week so the events feel real time and Emma Cline’s clever writing make it feel both fast and slow paced.

It is written in 3rd person to add to the air of disassociation that is key to understanding Alex. She is a 22 year old woman who essentially thieves and uses men to her own gain.

I realise that description doesn’t set her up as the most likeable sounding character but it’s the way her vulnerability and yearning are laid out for us to see that makes her highly readable.

She’d learned early on that it was necessary to maintain some distance. Keep up a few untruths.

When we meet her, she’s in LA with Simon – an older, rich man she’s staying with for the summer. She flexes to Simon’s every whim, very aware she needs to please him to keep enjoying his luxury house and lifestyle.

When Simon ends the relationship, Alex decides he doesn’t mean it and plans to surprise him at his annual Labor Day party a week later.

With little money, she has to be inventive about where she stays for the week, using her wit and street smarts to keep afloat.

I ended up feeling sorry for Alex. We’re not given a huge amount of back story, so it’s not laid out for us why she finds herself in this position, doing dubious things to survive.

She’d been almost jealous of the people she’d known in the city who’d totally cracked up, spiraled into some other realm. It was a relief to have the option to fully peace out of reality.

I left The Guest feeling slightly sad and worried for Alex. In the way that you sort of worry about people if they are on a path in life that won’t satisfy them in the long run or if you haven’t heard things are now OK for them.

Alex makes lots of questionable decisions but I did emotionally connect with her, which is what makes this book memorable. Along with the deliciously ambiguous ending leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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