The Guest List

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Aoife (pronounced ee fay) and her romantic partner Freddy "have been together for the best part of two decades" (ePg. 7).  They have recently begun a business on Cormorant Island and are hosting a celebrity wedding for Jules and Will, the main characters - although the focus of each chapter is on a different character so it feels like they all are central characters.  Each chapter opens with a time frame, a name, and a reminder of who they are (the best man or the plus one, etc.)  I appreciated the reminders about who was who until I learned them all.

There is a lot made of the groom (Will) and the ushers having been friends since they went to school at Trevellyan's, which seems to be a private school, the boys would take a victim "deep into the grounds", which implies a private school where they sleep in residence. (ePg. 94) But there are so many small references to public school: "public schoolboy manners" (ePg. 95), Aoife thinks, "These men are ex-public schoolboys" (ePg. 124), "Because everyone here, without a shadow of a doubt, went to private school" (ePg. 175), "Rory says, with a flash of teeth. So much charm, all these public schoolboys." (ePg. 179) that it really became quite confusing.

The audio had Irish and British accents.  I also noted that where the audio said "sticky plaster" the eBook said "Band Aid". (ePg. 207)  The readers do a good job of distinguishing voices and keeping up with all the different accents.  I always appreciate hearing how unfamiliar names are pronounced, like Eoin pronounced as the American "Owen".  (I've always thought it was pronounced more like Ian.)  I listened to some audio, read the hardback and also the eBook so there are references to both Pg and ePg.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex:  3

Religion:  3 

Gruesome:  3  

Suspense:  3

Morality:  4

Traditional:  3

Sex - "before she starts telling everyone about that time she had penetrative sex on-screen for an art-house film (never got a release, probably now on PornHub) (ePg. 81), male genitals exposed (Pg. 100), a bit rough (Pg. 109), a woman refers to needing "some inspiration in the bath" (ePg. 116), consensual but a little rough between a committed couple (ePg. 118), a female goes in the ocean in a dress and when she comes out the "dark points of her nipples" are obvious. (ePg. 202)

Religion - a hint at an abortion (Pg. 42), Hannah takes the Lord's name in vain (Pg. 46), "by a host of f***ing angels" (Pg. 161), a reference to Christmas and Easter (ePg. 209)

Gruesome - self-mutiliation/cutting (Pg. 35 & 193), Johnno's imagination runs wild and a vomiting (Pg. 113-114), seaweed in the bed (ePg. 120)

Suspense - who put the seaweed in the bed (ePg. 120), who wrote the note given to Jules, who was the body and then who was the other body

Morality -  curse words throughout the book, ref. to "pill-popping" and "screwing" (ePg. 1) ref. to a girl being "cuckoo" (Pg. 25), a guy offers a girl a joint (Pg. 111), a "procedure" in connection with remembering not getting her period (Pg. 193), a school nurse discusses options with a pregnant girl (Pg. 193), mom drives daughter to the clinic, (Pg. 194), a reference to a child being a mistake (Pg. 194), several references to cocaine (Pg. 229, 235 and 255)  female character was groped by men she didn't know. (ePg. 265) A married woman has a dance with another man at a wedding and enjoys the attention and recognizes that her dance partner is aroused. (Pg. 256 / ePg. 276)  Reference to videos of a girl being put up on "PornHub". (ePg. 278)

Traditional - a character's "clever sister killed herself". (ePg. 212)  Another character also seems to have a sister who died of suicide. (ePg. 213), several instances of premarital sex

There are several instances that feel like they could be clues to something:

There are also a few instances when the timeline seems off.  Like after the ceremony there is a wedding breakfast but at least one character had already had breakfast in a different scene and there are bars at the reception and "the wedding night" is a when detailed at the beginning of several chapters and Freddy was making rack of lamb, which seems more like a dinner than a breakfast meat. (Pg. 203)  It is unclear what time the ceremony was - sometimes it seems like it was early and then the reception lasted all day, and other times it seems like they had several hours in the morning before the wedding.

Discussion Questions

Hannah and Charlie reflect on how much their lives have changed since having kids.  Hannah thinks she wouldn't change any of it, but feels like there's another self she lost along the way. "The girl who always stayed for one more drink, who loved a dance." (Pg. 46)  Who were you before kids?

Hannah was sea sick and then couldn't get close to the window because she might get vertigo (ePg. 65).  Why was she such a lightweight?

Hannah felt like the guys were laughing at her expense.  (Pg. 69)  A different character also thought people were laughing at them.  Have you ever felt like you were being laughed at?  Were you right?

Hannah didn't appreciate Charlie telling others she'd been sick on the boat and thought he was putting on airs.  (ref. Pg. 70)  Has your spouse ever embarrassed you like this?  Hannah ignored Charlie - how do you handle it?  

Why does Johnno seem to place worth on being public-school educated, especially considering he went to Trevellyan's? (ref. Pg. 89) 

Hannah and Jules were both envious of each other in different ways. (ePg. 82)  Charlie connected them.  Could they ever be friends on their own?  Jules thought Charlie was jealous of Will. (ePg. 117)  Was he?  In what other ways does jealousy affect the characters in this novel?

Are you more like Hannah or Jules?  If you had to trade your life for a character's life - which character would you trade for (anyone in the book)?  

Were you suspicious of Johnno's whiskey?  (ePg. 91)

Hannah recognizes the symptoms of her husband, Charlie's, behavior that indicate he is drunk.  (ePg. 96)  Does your husband  have signs that you look for?

Will had a lot of connections to people that weren't initially obvious.  Were you surprised when the connections were revealed?

When Aoife and Freddy were discussing the newly sharpened cake knife (ref. ePg. 281), it was clearly foreshadowing.  What did you expect to happen with the knife?

When the ushers discovered a body, who did you think it was?   Who did you think was responsible for the dead body? 

From the "Reading Group Guide" (ePg. 314):  Who was your favorite character?  Who was your least favorite?  Was there one you related to the most?

Theme Ideas

Serve a deep red sponge wedding cake, with a "train of sugar foliage". (ePg. 2 & 6)
Serve champagne and Guinness, like they drank at the wedding weekend. (ePg. 4)
Serve "fish stew based on a traditional Connemara fisherman's chowder: smoked fish, lots of cream" (ePg. 5) or "creamy chowder flecked with parsley" (Pg. 81) and canapes (including gluten-free, ref. ePg. 188), like Aiofe prepared to serve the night before the wedding.  The chowder may have had mussles in it. (ePg. 81)  Serve with Bollinger (1999) like they drank the night before the wedding. (Pg. 81)  The next course was a dark chocolate tart (Pg. 87) - seems a little out of sequence, but some fancy dinners are like that, or maybe the author skipped a few courses.
Serve cream tea, like Hannah "ate before [she] got on the boat". (ePg. 8)
Serve white wine, like was waiting in Hannah's room in an ice bucket. (ePg. 65)
Serve old-fashioneds, like the guest ordered (ePg. 174) and gin and tonics with rosemary sprigs like Hannah had (ePg. 175).
Serve "tender rack of lamb" and "crushed potatoes" with Bollinger. (ePg. 218)

Decorate with lots of floral scented candles. (ePg. 174)