The Guest List By Lucy Foley
Here is the summary because, I can’t. Most of you already know where this is going, and I just can’t. Generally, I. Just. Can’t.
Also, I can’t promise that what I’m about to do will give you that foundation:
Summary: A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie* from the author of The Hunting Party.
The bride The plus one The best man The wedding planner The bridesmaid The body
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?
*Footnote (apparently Jay Kristoff has rubbed off on me) – I’ve never read Agatha Christie but her reputation proceeds her. I’m gonna just throw in my random opinion here. I think comparing this book to Agatha Christie might be the greatest insult ever since, I don’t know, my Great Aunt (when I was in my 20s and had blonde hair) said I looked like Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy). Of course, the insult being to Ms. Buffy, not me.
French Fries With Your Salt?
A lot of people are new here (YAY!), so a quick explanation. I have meh reviews. And reviews where I even say look it was me, not the book- YMMV. Or it is the genre. I’m done with the genre. Everyone have fun with it.
Since I started this site, it is rare that I’ve gone full throttle on a book. In fact, this is now the fourth time I’m doing it. So, I’m starting a list. It started with Verify. Thinking about Verify. It still has me tired. That book makes me want to create a salty category.
- Verify is out September 24th, and it has me tired. I’m just tired. If I remember correctly? Even Gomez was tired.
- Look this one?? Number two? Is still the saltiest of them… even including this one… reigning champ… I just.. I mean..
3. You Are Not Alone because the social constructs this book imposes on women insinuates that at 42 I should just go pop a vein.
And now we get to #4….
Can A Short Book Be Too Long
Why yes, yes it can. There is a brilliant song by The Beatles called You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (I’ll plug the video in before the spoilers).
Anyway, the only fault of the song is that, at only two minutes and eleven seconds. It is at least a minute too short, because it is that good.
At 320 pages, The Guest List is about 100 pages too long. How is that possible? Oh, it is very possible. Repetition is an ugly thing when you beat the dead horse to death and then bring it back to life, to beat it some more. That’s animal cruelty.
Let me break down the repetition, ad-nausea (see what I did there). None of this is spoilers. They are character descriptions that come up early and then bang you over the head, along with the horse. And I’m going to stick to the characters that the story is told through. Because shit… this review is going to be long enough.
Jules- The Blushing Bride
Lie. Jules never blushes. She is always in control. Well except for… no we will get to that in a moment. A go-getter. Organized, pulled up from her bootstraps self-made rich bitch that everyone is jealous of and wants to be like. A trend setter.
Oh and. Daddy issues. And Mommy issues. And Half-Sister issues. But she hides those. From everyone- just smile for everyone because she can’t have ANYONE seeing that side of her. That is gone now…. ok sure. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Will- The groom
OH, FOR FUCKS SAKE ENOUGH! This isn’t a fantasy or a fairy-tale retelling. Charming, handsome- everything but the white fucking horse.
At one point I expected him to literally ride around the island on a white horse, or to find out that he was a legitimate prince of some sort, or something. As most women get told and know, both fictional and in the real world…
Welp. Except, not the women in this book, apparently because, every woman wants him. Every man wants to be him.
His father was the headmaster of the private school he went to. It all came easy for Will. And now he’s a TV star.
Commence swoons, bromances and overall meanboy, pack behavior to follow the leader. This INCLUDES Jules who will abandon all that was mentioned above (character core principals) just because, OHHHH WILL…
Will and Jules
This is where I was about to be physically ill. Seriously. It isn’t the romance trigger because none of it was romantic. It was just. Gross. Everyone around them would massively puke up everything they have, and will ever eat for the rest of their lives, because everyone wants that relationship, or was jealous of it.
How they touch each other, representative of their unbridled passion and love. They look so amazing together. OH, AND THE SEX. OH MY GOD! ALL THE SEX, ALL THE TIME.
At some point this went from a
thriller mystery. Sorry. No. It was never that. It is a chic-lit drama, fiction literary, melodrama with a murder in the middle of it. But I digress.
Back to the sex. All the sex. So much so, that it diverged into soft porn. Let me quote one of the MANY MANY MANY times Foley felt the need to express the insane amount of LOUD, RUCKUS sex that was had for the ENTIRE ISLAND TO HEAR*
We fuck braced against the bed, him entering me from behind. I cum, hard. I’m not quiet about it… Much of the evening has been kind of a foreplay. Feeling the gaze of the others upon us. Envious, awed. Seeing in their reactions to us how good we look together. – Jules
This is just one of many times. Not to mention the numerous commentaries by all the other points of view to how they sound and how it makes them feel.
*Another footnote (DAMN IT KRISTOFF)- I’m no prude and while I might be in a drought now, I’ve had a fair share of amazing sex but as Rose Nylund so aptly put it (I know the video looks upside down but when you hit play, it will not be upside down) in the clip below:
Hannah- The Plus One
In MOST ways- Hannah is a whiny, entitled, insecure brat that needs to just plain grow-up. Mind you, I can say this about every person in this book except the teenager, who is the only character I liked, empathized… wait let me stop. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Repetition: Hannah can’t make up her mind. This was their chance at a weekend away (her and her husband Charlie). Oh, but he hasn’t seen Jules in sooooo long, he should have time to catch up with her. OH, BUT HOW DARE HE! This is our weekend away together. And round and round and round the merry-go-round went. I was nauseous.
It didn’t help that she (well all of them) was so horribly written. Let me quote something that made me laugh so hard I dropped my kindle. And I’m 99.9% sure it wasn’t meant to be funny.
PS… keep in mind she also wakes up hungover as Charlie.
I turn to Charlie. Perhaps now is the time to break our sex drought, regain that lost intimacy. I sneak a hand beneath the covers, grazing the springy hair that covers his chest, moving my hand lower-
Charlie makes a sleepy, surprised noise. And then, his voice claggy with sleep: “Not now, Han. Too tired.”
I pull my hand away, stung. “Not now”: like I’m an irritation. Tired because he stayed up late last night doing God knows what, when on the boat over here he spoke of this as a weekend for us… I have a sudden frightening urge to pick up the hardback on the nightstand and hit him over the head with it. It’s alarming, the rush of anger. It feels like I might of been harboring it for a while.
HOLY SHIT LADY. How many times have you said, “not now Charles, I have a headache,” or “I cooked all day,” or “I breast fed”? Did he ever get the urge to knock you upside the head with a blunt object? I mean I don’t know but I’m guessing not. That is quite a huge leap there.
And again… PICK A DAMN lane. He can go hang out, or it is your weekend together. Take a stand but stop pissing in your own milk and complaining about the taste of it (ok I stole that line from M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli because. Just because.).
Thank you to William Morrow and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review
Hannah feels more like a colleague than a wife who is desired in her marriage. She sizes up every woman she lays eyes on by what they look like (literally and instantaneously – they look like x so they must have x personality). She then internalizes and transposes that into how she sees herself.
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO JULES.
If I had to hear one more time how Charlie and Jules have been friends since they were kids? In the womb? I was going to make sure she was the first one offed.
And the kicker? Hey Hannah? It doesn’t even matter, because honey, check this shit out. HE MARRIED YOU and SHE IS MARRYING PRINCE FUCKING CHARMING THAT EVEN YOU SWOON OVER.
So, hear me out here. WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO JUDGE HIM?! Also, again. Jules is marrying the man everyone wants to be like or fuck. Hell, some of the men might even want to fuck him. So, I really don’t see the issue here.
PLUS, putting all that aside? If you don’t trust your man? Your marriage was done, anyway. Whether it is Jules or some random girl at a bar. Your man is who you should be looking at. That AND your marriage. Not Jules.
Oh, AND your insecurities. Because if (and yes this happened) you got dressed, feeling sexy and beautiful for the rehersal dinner, until you see Jules, and then suddenly are disgusted by yourself? Guess what, love, your issues are with yourself, not her, nor her and Charlie’s friendship.
And that behavior, those insecurities, will run off a man real fast. Also. Readers. Because. ENOUGH.
Damn. Really didn’t like Hannah.
Johno- The Best Man
Oh my God. Another self-entitled manboy badly in need of being smacked upside the head. Grow the fuck up already. And if there is something that has been bugging you out since boarding school?
Either stay away from the person, step-up and deal with it or whatever. But don’t keep repeating this cycle of being a martyr because it just ain’t cool. It isn’t cool as a person. And as a character? You are bogging down the story.
Page after page of- woe is me, everyone always looked down on me. Well, I’m going to show them I made something of myself. I really, REALLY couldn’t care less about him if I tried. AND I TRIED.
But his constant self-pity, victim shit really got old fast. I mean I’m not going to defend Jules on much of anything in this book. But her vile hatred of Johno? This, I get. I’d hate him too.
Truly this is me looking for a fuck to give about anyone outside of Olivia in this whole book.
Olivia- The Brides Maid (Maid of Honor)
I left the best for last. Truly. Because Olivia is the only character worth a damn in this entire book. I worried about, cared about, and felt protective of the nineteen-year-old.
She was the only character that truly needed help. She was desperate and crying out for help. And the “adults” in this book were so fucking up their own petty, self-entitled, insecure, trend-setting asses that there was no time for actually noticing. Reciepts? Oh, I have receipts.
Right in the very beginning of the book
This isn’t the first time the electric has shorted. But last time the lights snapped back on again within minutes. The guests returned to their dancing, their drinking, their pill-popping, their screwing, their eating, their laughing… and forgot it ever happened.
Hell, her own sister cares more about the wedding carrying on without a hitch than anything that is happening with Olivia. I mean oh my god.
From the beginning of the book, the first time you get anything from Olivia’s point of view. You know she is self-harming.
You know she is entirely too thin. She has dropped out of college and had a relationship bust up. But you also know there is something much deeper than that going on and no one knows what it is. But it is obviously bad.
Meanwhile, from everyone else’s point of view you get the most surface observations EVER. Not just surface but dangerous. She’s thin. She’s so thin and pale and dark haired that she’s Kate Moss, 90s beautiful thin, with legs up to “her armpits.” Yup. That was said.
Funny, I thought we’d let go as that being something to be envied, about a decade or so ago? Yet here we are.
Multiple characters literally refer to her as “cuckoo” because that is some crap labeling and sensitivity language right there. How many people would call me cuckoo because I’m bipolar?
Mind you she isn’t anything of the sort, but she is self-harming and obviously reeling from something traumatic, maybe PTSD?
Either way, none of these heavy themes are being dealt with, on any level, responsibly, thoughtfully, or with awareness. Instead it is just stuck in there, repeatedly for ignorant character commentary on her behavior.
Meanwhile this poor girl is seriously suffering and that is how she is written. That is how the “adults” around her treat her and talk about her. The only character that actually attempts to help her is Hannah. It is Hannah’s one good trait and action throughout the book. Everyone else is crap about it.
Oh. If you are wondering? I’m not doing the POV of the wedding planner because it was stupid pointless, and ridiculous.
It wasn’t necessary. She wasn’t necessary and her whole part in this book made me want to never read again.
The Rest Of The Story Non-Spoiler Version
Pacing- What is pacing? Does that exist. Because all of the above is 90% of the book. Then boom, bang, bam the book is over. It is like getting to the point where Thor puts Storm Breaker in to Thanos’ chest and someone pulls the plug on the TV. Nothing gets resolved.
First of all, the book isn’t even long. At least Foley could have written a proper ending. It was just murder, murderer and done. All the other shit… nothing. I was like what… wait… did I fall asleep? Is the ARC screwed up?
Because like there are ten other things going on and while I may not care about any of them? I got to the end. I sure as hell want to know what happens now. Just wrong. I feel so… used.
The “mystery”- Like I said up above. First, to call this a thriller/mystery is a lie. It is a drama/chick-lit/literary book that happens to have a murder in it.
It becomes pretty obvious who is going to die. All you can hope for is that it isn’t the only murder and the who did it part is interesting. Then at least I could say the book sucked because the author relied on the big reveals and phoned in the rest. But no. The victim was obvious and who did was so stupid I just …
I could think of a list of ways to make this better. I will below.
Plot… holes: There are so many I could drive a Zamboni through them.
Social Issues: It’s all bad. I said too much about Olivia, probably. Trust me when I say there are so many more and it is just done poorly.
Poorly doesn’t even do it justice. Malice. It is just WHAT THE EVER-LOVING FUCK was she thinking when she wrote this. You just don’t throw all these themes around without some forethought.
*I’d like to point out at this point that I’m neither the feminist, or uber-politically correct person in the room 99.9% of the time. Yet, all this shit got to me. So let that sink in for a point of reference.
Ok. I’m exhausted. Listen to the Beatles and then Stop. I’m going to spoiler land.
Without repeating the above.
Yes. I know. Hannah’s dead sister. I give her that and trying to help Olivia, but only those things. End. Story.
I don’t want to hear about Johno and Will and mess with the Loner. Johno had two options. Come clean or not.
But stop whining about it constantly. You can’t let that one thing and then all your other insecurities destroy your life. Will is a piece of shit, obviously. Stop fucking walking in his shadow. Get on with it.
Jules and Olivia. OMG What the fuck is wrong with Jules. Even when Olivia tried to kill herself Jules is berating Hannah for trying to help her and then actually thinks to herself- I need to keep it together. I can’t let the wedding go off the rails.
And then everyone just goes on with the wedding. The girl just tried to kill herself. WHAT THE CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE AND FOLEY? I just can’t even.
And when Jules hears Olivia and William arguing, finding out their back history? What is her response? Does she come to her sister’s defense? No. Jules and William leave Olivia out there, alone, and go back into the wedding to cut the damn cake.
And so help me, if anyone’s response to this is- yeah but Jules slammed half the cake into Will’s face. Oh. I see. That is the appropriate response? NO. NO. IT IS NOT.
I can look over quite a lot. But. no.
Riddle me this batman. When Stephen (William) and Bella (Olivia) met, Olivia was using Jules’ apartment. And they had sex (holy hell with all the damn sex– was this an off shoot of 50 shades of grey or something) all those times, wouldn’t Will have recognized that apartment the first time Jules had brought him home? So, he wouldn’t have been SHOCKED, when he met the family after their quick, rushed engagement?
Actually, let’s back that up a step. It was Jules’ apartment. So, there had to be pictures around. You are telling me the party that Olivia got sick at and went home, he didn’t recognize Jules from the pictures in her apartment, and maybe just maybe put two and two together?
Either way, there is NO WAY he didn’t know before meeting the family that Jules was Olivia’s sister. HE HAD TO KNOW, which is why he ghosted Olivia when she tried to tell him she was pregnant.
That leads to the next huge ass plot hole- WHY DIDN’T OLIVIA SAY SOMETHING? I get initially not wanting to tell anyone. It is embarrassing.
But her mother already knew she had an abortion. Was she really just going to shut-up and let her sister marry this creep? It was obvious he wasn’t going to say anything. That just doesn’t register with me.
Let’s list all the things that didn’t get discussed because of the insanely abrupt and idiotic way the book ended.
- Who the hell left Jules the note? Now I deduced (at first) that it was the wedding planner except that didn’t make sense because she wanted, needed the wedding to go off without a hitch for her own success. So, I’m going with Olivia. However, I think that should’ve gotten wrapped up, no?
- So, Jules gets to just hug her way out of how horrendous she has been treating Olivia this whole time? Uh. No.
- The whole Survival Game from boarding school and Loner… anyone actually going to do anything about that?
- As a side note to the above, the headmaster (William’s dad) is as complicit in that mess as anyone. He knew it was going on. Shouldn’t he face charges of some sort?
- Hannah’s dead sister- and speaking of which- um. Let’s count up all the things Will did – it is pretty impressive:
- Getting Olivia pregnant
- Killing Loner
- Lying to Johno about losing the spot on his tv show
- Hannah’s sister
I feel like I’m missing something but that is impressive… yet that is enough and looking at that list this is why the ending pisses me off so much.
It was obvious Will was going to die. But that is it? And at the hands of the wedding planner? Aw, come on man. Let me give you a million other ways this could have gone down.
Charlie – revenge for Olivia, Jules, and Hannah
Olivia/Jules’ Mom- in revenge for both
In fact, this makes a lot of sense because of the flashback scene when she is having tea with Olivia after the abortion and says she’d kill the boyfriend she thought was the father.
What if Olivia/Jules’ Mom and Will, struggling, go over the cliff together?!
Hell, now that I think about it, I’m surprised Will didn’t sleep with the mom, too.
My point here is that Foley had a million better ways to end The Guest List than the wedding planner killing Will.
Insult to injury, Foley just pulls the plug before Thanos says, you should have went for the head, leaving nothing else is addressed.
Like the title says, I’d rather them had gotten quarantined with Covid. Then, at the very least, they would have been forced to confront the Pandora’s box of issues.
Last But Certainly Not Least And Maybe The Most Serious
I’m just going to list these out. Otherwise, I’m going to go on a diatribe. And this review is going to become longer than the book.
As it is I’m afraid to look at the word count, which might have broken my 3800 word dissertation on Nevernight (at least that was positive).
You don’t just throw this list of themes around haphazardly, or as literary devices. You do them right or you don’t do them at all. In The Guest List, Foley was careless, reckless and showed no concern for those that suffer from them, nor the stigma society has towards them. Again, there is much more to be said, but I won’t.
- Self-Medicating (Drugs/Alcohol)
- Peer Pressure
- Societal Constructs placed on women/Body Image
- Childhood Trauma/PTSD
- Mental Illness
- The Boarding School Mentality (not to say all boarding schools have this issues but those that do)- also- fraternities