Friday, December 26, 2014

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

An elderly woman, Ruth Field, lives alone in a remote area of Australia. Despite suffering from back pain, she is self-sufficient and content with her life. However she regularly dreams that there is a tiger in her house. Only when she discusses this with her son during their occasional phone calls does she realize it was only a dream. One day a woman named Frida arrives at her door. Frida says she has been sent by a government agency to help Ruth. Ruth allows her in and Frida, taking charge of the cooking and cleaning chores, does make Ruth’s life much easier. But is Frida actually a government health care worker? Sometimes she appears to be bullying Ruth or taking advantage of her. Is she really? Ruth is obviously suffering from dementia, or at the least confusion, and cannot always trust her memory of Frida’s mistreatment. Neither can the reader.  The Night Guest is an unusual novel of suspense and Fiona McFarlane expertly uses domestic events to create a sense of uneasiness.