A Review of The Guest List


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

The Guest List by Lucy Foley combines many well-known tropes to form a beautifully written tale of a chaotic island wedding.

Quinn Volpe, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The Guest List by Lucy Foley intertwines a murder mystery, a high-end wedding on an island, and six different perspectives that all come together to fabricate a slow-burn hatred for the victim rather than the assailant.

After a sea-sickening boat ride to an island, an unlikeable cast of characters spends the night in the home, called the folly, of the wedding planners, Aoife and Freddy. The friends of the groom dubbed the “ushers” seem to be unable to get over their high school days. Through disjointed and arrogant conversation, they gradually unravel the dark history of hazing that took place at their boarding school. 

The wedding is chaotic, especially after a predictable storm rolls in that affects the electricity and already existent tension in the chapel. As each chapter offers a new point of view, the reader comes to understand the complexity of the characters’ lives and how they are all connected. 

Though I dislike most of the characters, and this is why some reviewers criticize the book as a whole, I was drawn to their multifaceted personalities and feel that they are necessary to the storyline. What irked me was the similar voice that each character brings to the table, because it feels more like Foley created one character and applied that singular way of speaking to each person who is supposed to have their own unique traits. 

Foley attempted to solve this through slight alterations of accents and attitudes, but overall, she failed to make it seem as if each person had their own mannerisms and vernacular, which is especially concerning because many of them have lived in different European countries yet sound remarkably alike. 

The story is fast-paced, and after I got far enough in, I couldn’t put it down because I did not want to miss a beat.

While some critique the novel’s multiple points of view, and the aforementioned flaw in it is quite frustrating, I found it easier to understand when I could read how characters think versus how they act and present themselves. It also feels all the more personal when you can get to know each character on a deeper level and know secrets that most characters are unaware of. 

The story is fast-paced, and after I got far enough in, I couldn’t put it down because I did not want to miss a beat. As the ending approaches, plot twists occur every few pages. 

What I appreciate the most about The Guest List, though, is that it does not spoil itself before it even begins. As a reader, when it comes to murder mysteries, it is to be expected that the victim’s story will be made clear quite early on, and that the book will outline the adventures that lead up to the mystery being solved. However, this book does not even tell the reader the victim until the very end, despite the knowledge that there will be one. 

The predictability of much of the story is what prevents me from giving it all five stars. From the outset, it is clear that Foley is attempting to build up to the plot twists — though I did appreciate them in the end — rather than letting them naturally pan out. In the midst of a normal conversation, it is not a rare occurrence for a character to make a strange, eerie comment about something seemingly irrelevant, which I felt was unnecessary to the plot as a whole. 

Ultimately, I would recommend this book despite the flaws that stuck out to me. It was an exciting and well-written read with a few twists that I could never have expected.