Clare Moorhouse, the American wife of a high-ranking diplomat in Paris, is arranging an official dinner crucial to her husband's career. As she shops for fresh stalks of asparagus and works out the menu and seating arrangements, her day is complicated by the unexpected arrival of her son and a random encounter with a Turkish man, whom she discovers is a suspected terrorist.
Like Virginia Woolf did in Mrs. Dalloway, Anne Korkeakivi brilliantly weaves the complexities of an age into an act as deceptively simple as hosting a dinner party.
In 'An Unexpected Guest' we read a full account of a diplomat's wife daily challenge: standing by her husband and making sure everything is rolling smoothly.
Whomever said there is a woman standing behind every successful man must have been describing the Diplomatic Corps!
For any outsider, the life of a politician's wife must seem very glamourous. By all accounts there is much more involved however than wearing a little Chanel piece and a string of hand sewn pearls whilst overseeing the latest dinner preparations for such and such political figure.
Anne Korkeakivi introduces her readers to the intricate demands of Clare's life: An American, married to a British diplomat expecting a new post in the near future and with two children schooled in the UK.
The ramifications of an Ex-Pat living abroad, the cultural and linguistic differences at each particular post are in themselves challenges enough. You quickly get the impression you must learn to live out of a suitcase, never feeling entirely at home.
Clare however takes it all in stride and thanks to the author's fluent understanding of these challenges we are able to follow the protagonist in all the recent developments in her life whilst discovering there is more than meets the eye.
One might think it very dull when faced with these never ending duties, all very synchronized, conformity being a must in the Corps, but you soon discover Clare is still trying hard to shed past insecurities.
She is also facing the latest in her youngest son's string of misconduct whilst hanging on to her cosmopolitan polish. As befitting her position, all down to her beige coloured garments and colourless nail polish, the elegant Clare however handles each crisis including a recalcitrant cook and the ever present terrorist anxieties whilst performing her duties.
Anne Korkeakivi carefully builds an interesting story around a sudden development which ultimately allows us to understand why this unexpected guest will upset Clare's carefully arranged life!
I nearly stopped reading this novel as its core seemed to be only too predictable.
I found myself guessing its ending after the third chapter only to discover there is an under layer to Clare I applaud!
Thus I enjoyed the occasional surprises and in particular the dialogue betwixt Clare and her staff and the local merchants.
One would have to be bilingual and an Ex-Pat to appreciate the subtle art of such dealings in all their complexity.
In the end, just like Clare, you learn to shrug a shoulder, smile and move on!
I gave it 4 stars!
Note: Due to some 'adult only' thematic contents including some expletives, this general fiction is for mature audience only.
About the Author:
Discover more about Anne Korkeakivi and her writings on her website (here) including an excerpt of her recently published book 'An Unexpected Guest'.
I received this book free from HACHETTE as part of their blogger review program. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255 'Guides concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. I was not asked to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.