Her Campus Aberdeen’s overall rating: 6.4
In our February book club, HCAU read the highly reviewed ‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley and had some mixed reactions.
Set on a gloomy island the main characters, mostly old friends with deep and connected histories, come together for a wedding where one guest is eventually killed. The atmospheric and suspenseful nature of their surroundings came across well throughout the book and helped us as readers feel invested in the storyline.
While many of us are not usually fans of constantly switching narratives in novels, most found the repeated changing from character to character only added to the suspense, and prompted us to read more than normal with Megan mentioning she felt as though she was reading at one hundred miles an hour. This was most definitely helped by the many short chapters, some lasting no more than a page.
There was a consensus that the beginning of the book was lacking. Ellen notes there could have been more plot to solidify the characters relationships between each other. Currently, the first few chapters focus solely on character backstories that sometimes unnatural and forced.
While Iona hadn’t guessed the plot and found the ending both dramatic and shocking, others had already worked out some of the relationships between characters and were better able to hypothesis over who would be killed by the end of the book. For example, Carlyn and Lucy guessed quite a few of the plot points, but were still surprised at the moment of the characters death. Despite this, it was agreed that the middle section of the book was the most cohesive and interesting to read. The narratives and pace were quick but easy to follow and these chapters contained the most surprising and detailed plot twists – making an enjoyable.
In terms of the characters, it was mentioned that the women in the story seemed to be created with outdated stereotypes of womanhood and female friendships in mind, we even questioned whether the book as a whole would pass the Bechdel test. Thus, the female characters lacked some relatability, with the main character Jules evoking little emotion among us. Furthermore, we felt that the character of Aoife could have been developed further, as the lack of information about her relationship with her brother who was killed as a child disrupted an otherwise decent storyline. Had this been done it would have ensured a more dramatic and thrilling ending.
The ending as it stands feels rushed, definitely aided by the chapters becoming increasingly shorter. Meridyth noted that the ending felt slightly anti-climactic for her, and she found herself skipping over the last few pages once the death and killer had been revealed. To improve this ending, we would definitely suggest not revealing the killer, and leaving it up to the reader themselves to decide who the guilty party was.
Meridyth also mentioned that the book worked really well as an audiobook as the switching of character narratives made a compelling listen, and well all agreed that we would love to see a TV miniseries where each character could have their own episode to really solidify their backstories and relationships between each other.
With Carlyn stating that she was excited to read this book after a day of university work, it is difficult to say that this book didn’t hold our attention or wasn’t enjoyable, however there were some moments that felt forced or underdeveloped leaving us to score it a rather average score in comparison to those on Goodreads.