GUEST by Françoise Harvey


NIGHTJAR PRESS 2022: my previous reviews of this publisher HERE



“I elbow him. ‘So what do we do now?’ I ask.”

This example  of my beloved ‘elbow’ moments in literature has given me a most defining pang. What do we do, now that this latest spray or spate of daily Nightjars is complete? This one is an adeptly haunting  culmination, however, with an aura insidiously of the hotel hospitality and car travelling deployed in yesterday’s Nightjar HERE. In fact this one contains what surely must be the Platonic Form of a disarmingly off-putting, off-key hotel, with, for example, a ‘grim grim grim’ bathroom, and involving literally an off-key doorcard for the room with a distant on-key piano sound and the main woman protagonist  looking in a mirror wondering who she is! Perhaps she is a famous French songstress (“You speak French, right?”), a songstress with a similar name to the author, having seen a French bodice-ripper among the books on the hotel’s coffee tables? And the staff apologise unapologetically, even on one occasion apologetically to disarm you further.  With Zeno’s Paradox as a sensed backdrop to this couple arriving at a hotel to attend a wedding tomorrow after a slow mazy car journey… “The receptionist hurries towards us – or at least moves in a way that implies hurrying: jerking her shoulders and swinging her arms.” And a book structure that collapses (like my own disappointment at the current Nightjars ending?) All the cars in the car park are at mis-angled tangents within their spaces. And other  people whom the couple meet in the hotel, people who are going to the same wedding, are strangely recognisable as having been met before but also unrecognisable, all with a sense of threat. The wedding itself is airbrushed if not hidden under a mask of smudged mascara, but its aftermath with the guests going back to the hotel (in the hired London bus with streamers) is sprayed in various  mis-directions of spate and potential unforgettability. But which guest in GUEST was the eponymous one? Perhaps the story’s main guest who asked  the receptionist for a night jar to put under the bed, i.e. the reader who thought he was me!

“I don’t think I’m doing anything in the right order.”


My previous reviews of this author:

Best British Short Stories 2017

Series editor NICHOLAS ROYLE
(My previous reviews of this writer are linked from HERE)

(My previous reviews of this publisher are HERE)

Featuring stories by Jay Barnett, Peter Bradshaw, Rosalind Brown, Krishan Coupland, Claire Dean, Niven Govinden, Françoise Harvey, Andrew Michael Hurley, Daisy Johnson, James Kelman, Giselle Leeb, Courttia Newland, Vesna Main, Eliot North, Irenosen Okojie, Laura Pocock, David Rose, Deirdre Shanahan, Sophie Wellstood and Lara Williams.

My review will appear in the comment stream below…