Australian writer Fiona McFarlane has just won the world’s richest literary prize for young writers, The Dylan Thomas Prize, for her second book, a collection of short stories. This was her first, and it was fabulous.
By the time she tells her son her fears over the phone, she realises she just sounds old and confused.
Then Frida arrives, sent by the government, she says, to care for Ruth. What starts as an hour a day of cleaning and personal help gradually encroaches on Ruth’s whole life.
She’s worried at times at what Frida is doing, but also grateful. How would she get by without her large, sometimes fierce, carer? Particularly when the tiger comes again.
As Ruth becomes less certain about the things she thought she knew, her childhood life in Fiji becomes more real and old memories come flooding back.
She makes contact with her youthful crush, a doctor, and the flame is kindled again.
But what is Frida really up to, and can she be trusted?
This startling debut novel from Sydney-based McFarlane is a disturbing and unsettling slow burn of a psychological thriller about love and dependence.
McFarlane places the reader claustrophobically inside Ruth’s increasing confusion, so we can see and fear what’s coming but can’t do anything about it.
The book has already sold around the world.
Update in 2017: The Night Guest ended up being shortlisted for the Miles Franklin in 2014 and for the Guardian first book award in the UK. It also won the inaugural Voss Literary prize.
It was in my 2013 list of best books I’d read that year.
Her new book is titled the The High Places.
This book was published in 2013.