An Unexpected Guest: A Novel

( 12 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Like the good diplomat's wife that she is, Clare Moorhouse is busy organizing the official dinner that she is about to host. All her conscientious preparations, however, can not keep her from fretting over her younger son's recent behavior or worrying about the possible exposure of a scandalous past incident from her own past. Anna Korkeakivi's An Unexpected Guest is a first novel that almost simultaneously evoke Virginia Woolf and Eric Ambler.

Sessalee Hensley

-Whole Living Magazine
"In this first novel, Korkeakivi updates Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway with a new heroine....The book is as wonderfully self-possessed as it leading lady, and winningly suspenseful as well."
Publishers Weekly
It’s not surprising that the prolific short-fiction writer Korkeakivi’s debut novel takes place over a 24-hour period. What is surprising is the depth and magnitude she attains from what first appears to be a thin premise. Clare Moorhouse is the wife of a British diplomat stationed in Paris, a man in line for a promotion to the ambassadorship of Ireland. All Clare has to do is host an elegant dinner with top-ranking officials—and make sure it runs smoothly. It’s something she’s done a thousand times, but this evening is different. The mention of Ireland triggers a flood of memories regarding a youthful but grave mistake she made in college that she’s never forgiven herself for. Running errands throughout the city in preparation for the party, she’s forced to face the demons she’s been carrying by encounters with two men–one of whom has been dead for more than 20 years. Korkeakivi fluidly fuses the past and present, building a solid character in Clare and powerfully exploring whether redemption from past regrets is possible and the lengths one must go to attain it. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Apr.)
Alison McCulloch
"Serious geopolitics mixes with parenthood and the finer points of entertaining.... Like her protagonist, Korkeakivi's writing is cool, calm and composed."
Pat Williams
"Beautifully written....emotional and riveting....this book is a winner!"
Melissa Maerz
"[In] this promising debut novel... Korkeakivi shares Woolf's flair for making everyday rituals (buying flowers, setting the table) seem profound."
Julie Trevelyan
"[A] captivating first novel about appearances concealing truth."
Audra Otto
"Like Virginia Woolf did in Mrs. Dalloway, Korkeakivi brilliantly weaves the complexities of an age into an act as deceptively simple as hosting a dinner party."
David Gutowski
"An Unexpected Guest is a compelling debut novel that elegantly unfolds its narrative of a 24-hour period in the life of a diplomat's wife, one of the year's most complex and unforgettable literary characters."
Megan O'Grady
"A thriller-like tale of a British diplomat's wife in Paris intent on pulling off the perfect dinner party while plagued by memories of past indiscretion."
Ihsan Taylor
"Cooly composed...."
Whole Living Magazine
"In this first novel, Korkeakivi updates Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway with a new heroine.... The book is as wonderfully self-possessed as its leading lady, and winningly suspenseful as well."
George Hagen
"Anne Korkeakivi's writing has all the best qualities of an Ishiguro novel. Clare, a seemingly selfless diplomat's wife, the epitome of restraint and hermetic detachment, unravels before us into a woman of dangerous allegiances, passions, and moral dilemmas, in prose that is both beautiful and razor sharp. Paris is depicted with subtle complexity, a city that reposes as it threatens, full of scorn and grace. Korkeakivi's sense of detail is remarkable while grounded in authenticity. An Unexpected Guest is a feast of a novel."
Yvonne Zipp
"An Unexpected Guest is a quietly intelligent novel about a woman who, at long last, learns to be honest with herself."
Fernanda Eberstadt
"A taut tender suspenseful novel, delicately told."
Margot Livesey
"Anne Korkeakivi writes wonderfully about embassy manners, food, and Paris, and she writes even better about the darker world that threatens to disrupt not just Clare's seating plan for dinner but her entire life. An Unexpected Guest, like its heroine, is a novel of great elegance, enormous surprises, and unexpected depths."
Thomas E. Kennedy
"Anne Korkeakivi knows her expat life as well as the protocol of diplomacy-from the flowers and trees and markets of Paris to the meetings behind closed doors. Clare is an observant, intelligent woman whose elegant existence includes endless dinner arrangements, to-do lists, and the necessity of irreproachable behavior. Yet she has a secret that seems destined to burst and shatter her comfortable life and that of her family. An Unexpected Guest will draw you in and keep you breathlessly turning pages, even as you admire its intelligence and fine writing."
John Casey
"An Unexpected Guest is a lovingly detailed account of a day in the life of the wife of a British diplomat in Paris. But what a day! She deals with protocol, place settings and a temperamental cook and at the same time a troubled son, an Irish complication, and a suspected Turkish terrorist. Virginia Woolf meets Eric Ambler-and readers meet a charming heroine who rises to all occasions."
Elizabeth Bard
"Korkeakivi creates a Paris as crisp and unruffled as her heroine-and just as likely to surprise."
Nicola Keegan
"Deep private tension animates the perfect ambassador's wife as she manages one of the most important days of her husband's career, the complexities of her surprising past converging rapidly upon the present where an entire emotional life is balancing on a delicate, invisible wire. A beautifully written novel about living with our many selves."
Library Journal
The American wife of the British minister in Paris, Clare Moorhouse is suddenly tasked with hosting a dinner that could have profound consequences for her husband's career. She manages with her usual aplomb, even as she frets about her younger son, who seems to have committed a serious offense at his school back in England. More troubling is the thought of her husband's probable next posting to Ireland, a place she has avoided for decades because of some transgression in her youth. As the story unfolds, we learn that this transgression was not mild; during her college years, she had become involved with Niall, an aunt's "charity case" over from Ireland, and his violent opposition to the continuing British presence in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, a French politician has been assassinated, and Clare continues prodding her injured conscience when she realizes that she saw the suspected killer far from the site of the crime. VERDICT Moving between the starched-napkin ambience of high-level diplomacy and urgent questions of revolutionary activity, this engaging debut novel gently probes both without forcing insurmountable choices on its characters. Good for reading groups.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316196734
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 7/2/2013
  • Pages: 277
  • Sales rank: 308,571
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Korkeakivi was born and raised in New York City but currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, with her husband, who works at the United Nations, and two daughters. She has also lived in France, Finland, and a number of states in the Union, accumulating a B.A. in Classics and an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature. Her short stories have run in The Yale Review, The Atlantic, The Bellevue Literary Review, and other magazines.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 27, 2012

    Couldn't get into it

    I actually got part way through and stopped reading. I'm sure that there was a reason why the author dwelt on the minutiae of the character's day, but I wasn't sufficiently curious to stick with it to find out why. Not recommended.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2012

    Split Decision

    This is a beautifully and thoughtfully written book that deserves 5 stars for sheer craft and quality of writing.

    At the same time, however, the plot has all the excitement of excavating one's toenails on a Friday night while everyone else you know is out at a party. There is no way a book like that deserves 5 stars.

    Painful, endless chapters are spent musing on the personality of the florist, the touchiness of the Swiss-Scottish cook, the stupidity of Claire's young attraction to a profoundly unattractive young IRA adherent with a chip the size of the island itself on his shoulder.

    Fully 80 percent of the book is devoted to detailing the daily minutiae of a political hostess preparing for a dinner. How many steps to the room where the place card holders were? Oh the suspense: will she get the place cards written before she decides to get dressed, or after? Will she be able to drop off her translation at the museum down the block today, or will it have to wait until tomorrow?

    These details are used to great effect to show how Claire is frozen in indecision, using life as a shield behind which to hide herself. However, the net effect is extremely pedantic and unattractive. Not until the end, when she casts aside her shield and finally takes decisive action, does she (and the book) suddenly become anywhere near interesting and worth reading. Unfortunately, I had to force myself to pick the book back up at least 10 different times to get there.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2012

    Enjoyed enough to stay up late reading.

    The Unexpected Guest is a captivating story set in the diplomatic world of Paris. Anne Korkeakivi captures the suspense of a good mystery in a very personal story. Clare Moorhouse spends one day fulfilling her duties as the wife of an English diplomat and unraveling three delicate situations. The book is beautifully written and there are moments when you feel you have been transported to the Spring time streets of Paris. The threads of all three mysteries, present and past, weave together to keep the reader wanting more.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012

    An enthralling novel of such depth!

    This is a novel that you 'live' instead of just read. It awakens you to your surroundings, from little daily pleasures, tensions and concerns to bigger issues in life... It sharpens your senses in a wonderful way...as the story unfolds you get emotionally involved through subtle words and metaphors of such beauty...evoking an atmosphere that absorbs you completely.. It'sabout how we are not just ourselves but very much our circumstances, so often incidentally, unexpected, non anticipated.. and about how moral virtue can steer your reality in the right direction... I felt elated...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Unexpectedly Decent

    Review:

    Not every book has to be fast-paced in order to be entertaining, however, a slight increase in tempo would have been a welcome addition to An Unexpected Guest. The novel takes place in a single day - a deceivingly short amount of time - and chronicles Clare's preparations for a Parisian dinner party that could launch her diplomat husband's status. Each page is inundated with Clare's mental to-do lists, her thoughts, hopes, fears, interactions, and suspicions - every minute detail of her daily routine plotted meticulously, the pressure mounting with each passing hour. I love detail, especially flourishes of descriptive prose, and Anna Korkeakivi delivers a picturesque play-by-play of events. Unfortunately, by the novel's midpoint, the depictions have become monotonous, dawdling on like a Parisian soap-opera; without adequate action/drama and presenting too many unnecessary details. So much more could have been done with Clare's character, and I plodded on in search of any additional plot-lines that had potential, but the only real surprises were in the last three chapters, (no spoilers). I had never really read much about foreign diplomats before this book, but I like how Edward's job is explained and built upon, and I also enjoyed the view of Paris. Overall, a very interesting novel, but I felt that it lacked depth within the story-line and could have used some humor.

    Rating: Bounty's Out (3/5)

    *** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    Not recommended

    Not good at all - very hard to get into - and then follow - sorry I bought it.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 17, 2013

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    Posted April 21, 2012

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    Posted January 23, 2013

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    Posted April 28, 2012

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    Posted October 29, 2013

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    Posted August 27, 2012

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