The Guest List

“In my experience, those who have the greatest respect for the rules also take the most enjoyment in breaking them.”

Lucy Foley, The Guest List

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been on a mystery kick. This started almost immediately after Knives Out and was only intensified by Only Murders in the Building. Slowly, my mystery kick began to seep from my watching to my reading and all the most updated lists recommended The Guest List. So naturally, I had to pick it up. The story alternates between a few points of view: the bride, the best man, the bridesmaid, the wedding planner, and the plus one. Each of these points of view portrays the night before the wedding all the way until during the reception. Each point of view starts by introducing the relationship between the narrator and the bride and groom. Additionally, there are chapters interwoven that jump forward to the night of the reception; the night the crime was committed. 

Upon finishing the book, I had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was very interesting learning about these different characters and how the final events impacted them all. I did also feel that, ultimately, it was all very predictable. The author would provide tidbits of information that were all tied together very neatly. The reason everything became very predictable was because the author spent too much time elaborating on everything. Since the author emphasized certain aspects of each character too much, the reader can’t help but feel like the author was essentially spelling out exactly what was going to happen. 

I ended up listening to this book and so, because of the narrators, each character felt distinct to me, however, in terms of writing quality, most of the characters felt the same to me. The characters of Olivia (the bridesmaid) and Hannah (the plus one) essentially had a similar story and similar behaviors which made it difficult to really feel for either of them, especially because they were paired up in order to reveal their backstory. Johno (the best man) and the rest of the private school boys that made up the majority of the wedding party were essentially interchangeable to me and the side characters – despite three of them having a large part to play later in the novel – were difficult to keep track of. Like Johno, their only personality trait was attending private school and instead of it being satirical like it was intended, it came across as repetitive and boring. The final twist of who the murderer was felt more like it was meant to shock than it making sense in the course of the story. The murderer was presented as a completely different character and it felt as though there wasn’t any indication of their motive.

The best part of this book was Jules and Will (the bride and groom). Their personalities and motives seemed the most well put together and the development of their relationship over the course of these two nights was solid as all the terrible parts of their relationship began to manifest itself. The commentary on the idea of deceptive appearances was strong and the knowledge that their marriage/relationship was going to implode prior to the wedding was developed very well. 

This novel had a lot of potential to be really great. The overarching plotline was built on a solid foundation but the book ultimately felt too short and the most important characters weren’t fleshed out nearly as much. The backstories of characters like Hannah felt removed and Olivia’s story, while the most interesting, felt convenient and I think would have been more interesting if it had happened later in the story. The characters all felt like victims reacting to something bad and the story would’ve been far more interesting if the characters were all inherently bad people. By the end of the novel, the story felt fine. It didn’t surprise me or move me. It felt fine. It’s a fun beach read but felt like nothing of substance. 

RATING: 6/10

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