A big, lavish wedding on a remote island off the Irish coast, featuring an intertwining ensemble cast of characters who may or may not be involved in a murder? Well, that actually all sounds exactly like the kind of thing that my sister would love! And you know what, I quite enjoyed this novel as well. It turned up the drama and uncomfortable situations where you just know something could happen at any turn, and it kept me interested the whole way through.
The Guest List opens with a scene of a wedding in full swing on a remote island, during a big wind storm. The lights suddenly go out, a scream is heard, and we are left wondering what happened. Or, more aptly, we wonder what has happened to someone, and who that someone is. Flipping back and forth from the present and the day before, we get to know the people involved in this opulent affair: the bride is a digital magazine publisher, while the groom is an up-and-coming tv star of a survival show (not unlike Bear Grylls), and everything is designed to be picture perfect. But you know that when people start to get together and the alcohol starts to flow, behavioral decorum wavers and secrets start to get out. While Jules, the bride, is one of the main points of view in this novel, we also get to read the first-person POV of a cast of surrounding characters. Hannah: the wife of Jule’s long-time friend named Charlie. Olivia: Jule’s younger half-sister and the only bridesmaid. Johnno: the groom’s best man and friend from school. Aoife: the wedding planner and one of the two owners of the island which is the hosting location for the wedding.
The audiobook of this novel that I listened to features a small cast of different voice actors to voice the different character points of view. This made for a more interesting listen in my opinion, and made it easy to follow along just who was speaking at any given time. I only say this because I know that sometimes when the POV switches so frequently in books that I am ready, I have a little trouble remembering it switched or who it is with if I have to stop mid-chapter and come back or something like that.
With so many threads going on, it might be easy for things to get lost, but I did think that all the different characters and their conflicts were tied together nicely, and everything fell into place by the end in a way that didn’t feel too messy or over-complicated. With so many different points of view and sub-plots, I could see that easily happening, and did find the conclusion to be quite neat all things considered.
I will say that I definitely figured out where the plot was going pretty early, and the clues left along the way were significant. That didn’t diminish my enjoyment though, as there was still a lot to fall into place along the way, even if I saw what was coming from a ways off. And I’ll admit there was one moment of realization that I didn’t really think about too much and didn’t end up guessing, so that was still a decent surprise for me! All this to say, I don’t mind when I can figure out what’s going to happen before it does, because then it doesn’t feel like a plot twist has just been thrown in there to try to fool the reader, you know? Like oh nooooo, silly me for not seeing this surprise which you never actually alluded to at all! (Oop, I’m being petty today about reads of past, I guess).
One of the reasons that things weren’t all that surprising when it came down to it, it must be said, is because a lot of the characters here are (while totally real and people I can imagine in real life), very terrible and irritating. I met certain characters and just said “oh, here we go” with an eye-roll. You know exactly who they are and what they are capable of. While this certainly makes for a juicy time, it also makes for having to read a lot of awkward and uncomfortable situations which is not always an ideal time.
While for the most part I think this novel erred on the side of engaging and creating a sense of unease and suspense, it did dip a bit into the annoying side when it comes to these terrible characters, which is why it wasn’t a perfect read for me. I really didn’t care for most of the main characters, nor for a lot of the peripheral guests at the wedding either who are clearly just there for a spectacle and to get crazy drunk and then some — and to be fair, I would kill to be a belligerent wedding guest right about now, but I’m always excruciatingly embarrassed about it afterwards too, you know?
Anyways, the worst of the lot are definitely the groom and all his private school friends; they are a little clique of rowdy boys who got away with anything because of their family’s money and status. Actually, you know what, I likely couldn’t get over my irritation for this particular grou pof characters because it reminded me of the smarmy boys in the movie The Riot Club which also made me so irritated and yet I feel like it continues to get recommended to me? AH!! You really do just start off hating the men instantly and never quite get over it.
But at the end of the day, The Guest List was an engaging book to listen to, with a mystery that is maybe more about the drama and grandeur of it all. Everyone has secrets, but when everything comes together for one big event? Well that’s juicy to me, folks, and I do enjoy it.